Since my youth, I have been fascinated with the student of leadership models. However, my studies have not involved reading evidence-based essays or collecting usable data for a research project. I have spent most of my life “reading people,” as my dad would say. Life has afforded me countless opportunities to lead something whether I led a teen ministry, a decorating committee for a banquet, a little girl troop, or the charge for more responsible leadership on the college campus where I work.
As of now, my years as a full-time mom outnumber the years I have worked full time outside the home. While some may argue that stay-at-home moms possess no skills transferrable to a workplace, I have relied heavily on experiences from that time of my life in my life as an administrator in higher education. Interestingly, the young adult children on my campus remind me of my children when they were two or three years old. Over the course of my life, I found myself living out cycles and the expression that “life comes full circle.” Well, that is true for most people. The spirit behind the terrible two’s or the thoughtful three’s resided in my young adult children and it resides in most of the young students on my campus. Like the two year old, the young adult child discovers free will and engages in behaviors that bring them pleasure and hopefully satisfaction. In both cycles of life, any attempt to coach the young person or save them from themselves is met with resistance. Why did I raise mine (and some babies of other mothers) then accept a job that reminds me of the terrible two’s? Because I consider myself a leader and my “A, B, C’s of leadership” mandate a responsibility that I share my experiences in a way that promotes greatness in others trying to figure out what Prince called “This thing called life.”
“A” is for the attitude of the leader because attitude sets the tempo for the leader and the audience whether the audience is expected or incidental. The leader’s attitude influences the perspectives about the mission or goals of the group. In the movie “Remember the Titans,” one team member reminded a team leader of the value of attitude when he said, “Attitude reflect leadership, Captain!” In this scene, the leader was complaining about the poor attitudes and poor performance of the team without recognizing his role in generating these outcomes or his ability to change the same. The leader’s attitude about the following will guide the response of the group positively or negatively: accountability for the goals and actions of the leader and the membership, acceptance of the good and the not-so-good situations that arise, and accessibility of the leader to the membership and the incidental audience.
“B” is for belief. The leader must express an unwavering belief in the mission and the ability of the group to accomplish the goals and tasks associated with that mission. The leaders’ belief in the available human capital goes a long way in onvincing the membership and the audience that the goals and mission are attainable with the represented skill sets in the group. Moreover, the leader must be mindful that the belief system of the leader becomes the practice of the body and potentially the audience. Therefore, the leader ought to express beliefs cautiously and responsibly. Additionally, the leader must be willing to correct the group when there is a misinterpretation of the beliefs by the words or actions of the group members. When the leader fails to hold every member accountable for the beliefs of the group, the divergent voice(s) tend to become the expression of the whole that the leader is forced then to defend or reject. This type of confusion becomes the focus or the undercurrent that distracts the group from the intended outcomes of the organization. The intended outcomes of service-oriented leadership are more difficult to attain if the leader does not control the belief system and practices of the membership. In general, leaders serve for the benefit of others with the intent of creating a brotherhood and to be a blessing or benefit to others within the organization and community served by the organization. (Please note that the work “brotherhood” is interchangeable with the words sisterhood and community.)
Finally, “C” is for commitment. The leader must be committed to the role of leader before accepting the job. The leader must remain committed during the time of service too. The agenda set by the leader must reflect a commitment to 1. Building up the character of the membership and the community, 2. Positively impacting the climate within the group and the community serviced, and 3. Effecting change in the culture of the community that is safe, legal, and responsible. Leadership is tough. Leadership is hard work. Excellent leaders are more than hype folks who stand out front to get the audience excited about the mission or the goal. The leader must be on the front line, in the trenches, making contact every play like the linemen on a football team. The leaders attitude about preparation for the hard work and the leader’s attitude about working until the job is done usually generate momentum that ignites the body to advance the beliefs of the leader and the organization. The challenge for any leader is two-fold: 1. how to remain committed to the calling of leadership and 2. how to communicate goals and tasks that inspire other people who often seek the control and instant gratification of a two-year-old to focus on a commitment to delay satisfaction until sometime in the future for the benefit of the greater community.