I want to share a lesson I’ve learned to help all of us be better people and leaders. If you want to ratchet up your leadership skills and be someone who can make things better than they are right now, keep reading.
A few weeks ago, on a picture-perfect snowy evening, I had the pleasure of hosting my dental school class holiday party. It was a great time where my classmates got together, ate some good food, and laughed about the crazy life we have as dental students. Being the class president, it’s my job to coordinate the venue, food, funding, and announcements for each party we have, which is usually about 3 per year. I have a blast doing it, and am very thankful for the help of my vice presidents and wife who help make the event a success. As you might imagine, my time at these parties is almost completely occupied by preparing food, ensuring guests are cared for, and cleaning up. I am always completely exhausted after each party because I am on my top game for hours ensuring the party goes smoothly.
During this particular party, however, I was approached by some concerned classmates while I was cleaning up the dishes. “Andy, all you’ve been doing is work this whole time. Are you having any fun? You need to enjoy yourself like the rest of us!” Smiling, I told them I was appreciative of their concern, and assured them that I had been socializing and was having a good time. As I reflected on the conversation later that evening, I smiled to myself because I was living out one of the principles a successful military leader once taught me – it’s not about you.
I spend every second of my time hosting the class parties ensuring my guests have a good time. I literally do not stop for a second. I am constantly running around doing things like taking out the trash, setting up food, taking coats, and anything else that makes the party a success. I am consistently on the lookout for anything I can do to help my classmates enjoy themselves and personally tell everyone I appreciate their attendance. I feel fulfilled when my classmates are in a space where they can enjoy themselves and be happy.
Notice I didn’t say that I am fulfilled when I get to laugh, when I get to drink, or when I get to…fill in the blank. Because it’s not about me. And despite what you might think, I don’t look back at those parties and think they were a drag because I didn’t get to play corn-hole and drink with my friends. As the leader, I am responsible for making my classmates successful in every way I can. My fulfillment is based in seeing my teammates win. The moment I start to ask “how can I be fulfilled”, I stop being a leader and start being an individual looking out only for myself. And yes, sometimes that means doing things that are not enjoyable. But guess what, if it makes your teammates better, then it is your duty to do it. Welcome to leadership.
Now this might sound like a cookie-cutter leadership topic, but I’ll tell you what, the “it’s not about you” approach makes a huge difference for my classmates. It is well known in my class that if there is a problem or a need within the dental school class, Andrew Glover is going to take care of it. No one questions if I have the class’s best interest in mind when an issue arises, no one wonders if I am actually going to follow through on a promise because I have shown them they are my priority. I know for a fact my classmates appreciate this, and it helps them go through school more confidently, knowing they have a leader who is working for them. Don’t you feel more motivated when your boss has your back?
It’s obvious our world has too many individuals, and not enough leaders. I can’t stand seeing “leaders” focusing on themselves and the things that make them happy while ignoring the needs of the team. Everyone in my class knows that I will always eat last at any event. Why? Because if one of my classmates goes hungry while I was fed, I didn’t set that person up for success and I failed as a leader. Leadership actions have to be 100% driven by the success of the team. Anything less than that is a missed opportunity to make the team and the world better than before.
What about you? Does your spouse, family, coworkers, teammates have evidence to believe you are the leader who will make them successful? Do they know they are your priority? If not, why not, and what needs to change?
What’s your attitude like when you take on a leadership role? Do you immediately cringe at how hard something might be for you to do? Can you only think about the unpleasant nature of your tasks? Do you have regret because it’s not going to be enjoyable for you?
Or do you instead focus on how amazing it would be to see your teammates succeed? Do you obsess over the thought of seeing your team win? Do you spend your time thinking about how you can make your teammates better than yesterday? Are you ready to be the leader that your team needs to lead them to victory?
Then go do whatever it takes to make your team successful.
It’s not about you.