Have you ever asked someone the question “who has had the biggest impact on your life”? In the event you have, my guess is you heard stories about coaches, teachers, preachers, relatives, and at times even parents. And more often than not, these stories had pieces and parts that sounded like “man did they ever kick my butt” or “my goodness they were hard on me” or maybe even something as simple as how “incredibly tough” these mentors were.
Over the last few years there is much being written about a substantial shift in leadership styles. A shift described by some as one that is moving from dominance to consciousness, command and control to stewardship of the living. Just today a blog was written titled “Future of Work: An Army of Open Leaders” where the author talks about, “…work environments need not feel like a military camp or a ruthless command and control operation. The process of work should be fun, creative and very engaging.” Clearly the “Great Man Theory of Leadership” has run its course. And by all indications, the timing is right for a more heart-felt, compassionate leadership style.
So what becomes of those old coaches, teachers, preachers and parents? Is their direct, no holds barred approach that didn’t always feel good a thing of the past? Or would we be better served to follow my colleague John Pullen’s philosophy of innovating the future while preserving the core? A philosophy that asks us to consider carrying forward the impact of tough love that in fact did not feel good in the moment, yet served many of us so well over time, while also making room for enhanced compassion, empathy, caring and praise. It’s an approach to leading that leverages Aristotle’s “Golden Mean,” that just right place between the extremes that is ethically correct, situationally aligned, and when practiced, the purest form of integrity.
While you are thinking that through, ask those folks who are naming the people who made the biggest difference in their life one more question. A question that probes why they think those coaches, teachers, preachers and parents were so tough. My guess is the answer will be pretty consistent and sound something like “while it may have not always felt so good, I knew they only wanted what was best for me; that they did in fact care deeply about me becoming the best I could be.”
And if anyone was to ask who had the biggest impact on me, I would quickly respond, “my Mom.” The toughest person I’ve ever known – ever.
And you were right Mom, it mattered, and I did grow up to understand. I miss you dearly.