Monday, January 12, 2015

Bear’s Tips for Would-Be Leaders

Image by Teak Sato

. . . because we are all leaders at times.

A teacher was sitting at her desk grading papers when her first grade class came back from lunch. One of her students informed her, “Robert has to go to the principal’s office.”

“I wonder why?” the teacher mused.

“Because he’s a following person,” the child replied.

“A what?” the teacher asked.

“It came over the loudspeaker: ‘The following persons are to go to the office.’”

If some people are following persons, then others must be leading persons. And actually, we are each followers and leaders at different times. Sometimes we drive the bus, sometimes we’re along for the ride or we help navigate. But if you are ever in a leading position, this advice from college football coaching legend “Bear” Bryant about how to get the best from those around you can be useful.

“I’m just a plow hand in Arkansas,” Bear said, “but I have learned how to hold a team together. How to lift some men up, how to calm down others, until finally they’ve got one heartbeat together, a team. There are just three things I’d ever say: ‘If anything goes bad, I did it. If anything goes semi-good, then we did it. If anything goes real good, then you did it.’ That’s all it takes to get people to win football games for you.”

I think that is advice worth remembering, no matter who we are, but particularly for anyone who might find themselves in a leading role. Call them Bear’s tips for would-be leaders:

1. When you’re involved in any endeavor that doesn’t go well, assume appropriate responsibility for the outcome. No excuses. Nurse Florence Nightingale said, “I attribute my success to this: I never gave or took any excuse.” If you’re in charge and it doesn’t go well, let it be on you. Good leaders can take it.

2. When the outcome isn’t brilliant, but still okay, share the success with others. No leader achieves anything alone and everyone else can use the boost. Above all, never look for somebody to blame. We take credit for the good and bad together.

3. Finally, when things go especially well, give credit to others. Do you remember what T. S. Eliot said? “Half the harm that is done in this world is due to people who want to feel important.” Let go of a need for personal recognition. Heap kudos on others and they’ll perform even better next time. Leaders are only as good as those who follow them and followers are at their best when leaders are quick to give credit for successes.

There they are – Bear’s tips for would-be leaders. Follow them and you’ll find more success the next time you’re a leading person.

- Steve Goodier


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