There are moments in our lives that define or redefine our leadership principles and our lives. One such incident just happened and brought me back to my core values. One of my previous direct reports came to meet me and gifted something very special. He appreciated me for my leadership style of transparency, empathy, trust and getting the best out of people. It was a humbling and life redefining moment for me! As it was was a redefining moment hence thought of sharing here.
This is a priceless gift for me as he invested thoughts, money and then loads of time. This is a 1970 vintage watch that he bought online for approx. $500-$1000. He spent lot of time cleaning the inside mechanism, restoring the outside/bezel and installing a brand new leather band. He loves to restore vintage watches and this one was very special for him. As per him he went through all this labor because he appreciates my friendship, leadership and the value I have added. I may never be able to repay him for this gift and I doubt if I ever added that much value into his life.
At this time you must be thinking, how is this vintage watch related to my leadership principles? Please trsut me and stay with me for another minute.
Since early childhood, I have lead teams at school, college, community and now in the professional world. All these years I have built my list of leadership principles that I lead with on a daily basis. These are leadership principles that I either discovered (not invented) in the process or learned from other leaders by following or reading books on leadership. Here are my top 10 leadership principles:
- Be the example of the culture you want to build in your team and remembered for
- Respect your team members in every situation
- Lead with empathy and transparency as it builds TRUST in short and long term
- Operate with accountability
- Enable performance by promoting the culture of short term wins and celebrating them as a team
- Focus on the strengths of your team members. Only coach them in areas of weakness if it is hurting or will hurt them
- Feedback is a gift. Be vulnerable as a leader and allow your team members their feedback on you
- Follow the principles of situational leadership
- Be humble, invest in continuous learning
- Have fun with your team. Culture is not built while you are working on the projects but when you are not. Find opportunities to have fun time, learn about them, their families, journeys, aspirations etc.
So here comes the link between the two that I promised you earlier......
We all live in real-world where we often swim with sharks. I have been going through some rough patches in my life and questioning my leadership principles. I have been questioning their validity in the corporate world where there is a cut-throat competition. What matters in those environments is goals/numbers in each quarter, your perception among your seniors and peers and much more. Questions that have been bothering me for months are: Do I need to change to survive and be successful in the corporate world? Do I need to change my leadership principles and be one of the “sharks”? Do I need to stop being that “Nice Guy”, “servant leader”, “Strength finder”?
...Here is the connection back to the wonderful gift. I am glad you waited and continued the journey to see how this all connects...
This thoughtful gift and the humbling incident brought me back on-track. It answered my questions that I must continue to be who I am. I am defined by the principles, beliefs and values that I have lived with. Yes, I evolve those to become better as per the North Star of my life but I cannot change them completely or in the opposite direction. These are the leadership principles that align with my True North.
This team member appreciated me and gave me such a thoughtful gift because he likes to be led with these leadership principles. These leadership principles have enabled him during those years when was part of my team and believed in him, trusted him and enabled him. We have always been a family that works hard, extra hard in times of need, backs-up each other, and then have fun together.
When I retire from my professional career, I will like to be remembered for the value I created in the life of my fellow co-workers and the organizations. I will like to be known for the value I gave back to the community that I helped me become better every day. I will like to be known for the smiles I brought, careers I enabled and dreams I helped to come to life for my family, friends and colleagues.
Only existing or new leadership principles can help me reach my True North and not some shallow principles that may help me be temporarily successful. This gift empowered me to continue believing in my leadership principles. It forced me to think again about my end game and not just this small destination which is part of my long journey. Once-again I believe in the power of my decades-old leadership principles!
I hope my story inspires you to question yourself and identify your leadership principles. What will you like to be remembered for? What are the memories you want to retire with? How many lives do you want to touch & add value? I hope you will share your story one day and inspire me!