Jul 292013 15 Responses

Two Words That Define Good Leadership

There is a trait in the leaders I most admire, the marriages I most envy, and the people I most respect.

They have a quiet determination.

John Wooden best illustrated this quality. Yet he did so more at home than on the basketball court.

The Hall of Fame coach married his wife Nell in 1932 after six years of courtship. (See: You Chose This–a Reflection on Time Management)

They were devoted to one another for fifty-three years until Nell died of cancer in 1985.

After his wife’s death, Wooden had a ritual that on the 21st  of every month—Nell’s birthday—after visiting her graveside, he would write a letter and place it on the pillow on her side of their bed. It would stay there for one month until once again he visited her grave, wrote a new letter, and placed it on her pillow.

He did this every month from 1985 until a few months before his own death in 2010.

For nearly 25 years, Wooden honored the memory of his wife with a simple dedication.

He didn’t brag about his actions. (See: Two Steps to Solving 90% of Relationship Problems)

He didn’t tell others what he was doing.

When his monthly ritual was discovered by reporters, he didn’t feign humility.

He didn’t stop the routine or act in a different way the next month.

He kept doing what he had always done.

Quiet determination is not a trait of every leader.

Some people lead loudly.

  • They tell you what they are going to do.
  • They tell you as they are doing it.
  • They tell you what they have just done.

Ray Lewis led the Baltimore Ravens to the 2013 Super Bowl with loud determination.

Most politicians try to lead loudly. (See: The One Piece of Advice I Would Give a 7th Grader)

Many spouses attempt to love loudly.

There is a place for bravado for some.

But I prefer a different way.

I am drawn to the Wooden way.

I am drawn toward those who have determination.

  • They have defined what they want.
  • They have detailed how to gain it.
  • And they have determined to achieve it.

These are the people who desire to lead, who don’t want to settle for a second rate marriage or an average team.

They will do everything in their power to make the world better.

These are the people who resist the temptation toward apathy.

They refuse the easy game of blaming others. (See: Trust Me It Matters or Read This Before You Die)

They do what is in their power to make things change.

They are determined.

Yet they are quietly determined.

  • No need for a commercial.
  • No need for a billboard.
  • No need to announce to the world their intentions.

They act.

They train when everyone else plays.

They educate when everyone else entertains.

They care even when everyone else is apathetic.

To look at them, no one would know.

They appear the same as everyone else.

Yet it is what they are doing which no one sees that makes all the differences.

It’s a private, humble, quiet dedication and determination which sets them apart.

Some lead loudly. More power to them.

Let’s choose a different way. Let’s determine what is important, decide what it will take to accomplish our goal, and determine to let nothing stop us.

It’s Monday. It’s time to lead.

What’s a leadership quality you admire in others?

15 Responses to Two Words That Define Good Leadership
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  9. Justin Digney Reply

    Hi Kevin,

    I like this post. I have studied a bit about personality types and your right, some are better skilled at leading loud, but half are not. The truth is the quiet ones probably get better results but they take that bit longer.

    Society rewards success now. Its about getting the fastest return on investment.

    But I do note, that some people have a lot more trouble focusing on acting. I would say there are some people who are born to be action orientated, others are not. While some of the ‘are not’, they learn to be in an acceptable (to them – I would call this effective mentoring and coaching skills) way, others don’t.

    I also feel that some people struggle to see the future, and some struggle to believe what they envisage in the future could become true, and perhaps others might belief the vision they can see is possible but they don’t have the self esteem to start the journey or the self confidence to believe they can complete the journey, or the self control to stay on the journey.

    I don’t know if pessimism is a personality trait or if it is learned, but unlearning pessimism may or may not be possible and certainly won’t be easy. Just as optimistic people easily put external factors down to good outcomes, I believe pessimistic people can easily put good outcomes down to external factors (luck, help)!

    I haven’t done the research but I speculate pessimistic people are less likely to act on goals. Although I speculate their pessimistic nature allows them to better preempt risks and therefore mitigate them. Paradoxically this skill may be why the are pessimistic in the first place! They readily see the risks and challenges, I speculate optimists don’t readily see the obstacles and challenges or don’t even look – preferring to deal with them when we get there (learning from their mistakes and doing better next time). (Perhaps pessimism and optimism are highly related to learning styles).

    Anyway the point I have really not made is, some people, pessimists or otherwise, need to be taught how to learn from failure in order to act. How to re-structure their self talk to be more confident. It is not a natural skill for them!

    Whether it is nurture or nature they fail to ACT (analysis paralysis and other issues), while easily ticking all the other boxes.

  10. Larry Bone Reply

    Kevin…one thing I have enjoyed about life is observation of others and how they do what they do. The thing I have observed is people do everything better when they do what they do best. Finding that sweet spot is the key. The older I get the more I realize our greatest leaders are unknown. They know who they are and do it with quiet or loud determination. Agreeing or disagreeing with them doesn’t change them. They just do what they do best. I’m now learning so much about electricians. Where would we be without them?

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