Throughout my 15-year career in business leadership, I have encountered numerous enlightening experiences that have shaped my understanding of effective leadership. Interestingly, one of the most profound lessons I ever learned in this regard unfolded far from the corporate boardrooms and bustling offices. It underscores the notion that pivotal leadership insights can manifest in the most unexpected of places.
The Youth Group Challenge
Back in my early 20s, when I was just starting out in my career, my husband and I had the chance to lead a group of around 15-20 energetic young people in a youth group. It was a lively bunch, full of enthusiasm and a great sense of fun. However, there were a couple of boys in the group who had a knack for playfully testing my patience.
They would crack jokes and push boundaries, making it a bit challenging to keep things on track. But it was during one outing that something unexpected happened and offered a me profound revelation. Faced with the challenging task of coordinating our group's movement from one location to another, I found myself compelled to assertively demand, "You need to go where I tell you to now." These boys exchanged glances, and one of them said, with a mix of humor and sincerity, "You know, saying 'Please' goes a long way."
At first, I thought they were just being sassy and perhaps even trying to provoke me further. But as I looked at their faces, I saw a hint of hurt mixed with their mischievous grins. That moment has stuck with me for a lifetime, and it taught me two invaluable lessons in leadership:
1. Respect Begets Respect
In order to earn respect, you must give respect. Respect is a two-way street. If you demand things and are disrespectful to the people you are leading, what's the incentive for them to want to work for you or respect your leadership? Those boys taught me that being authoritative isn't the same as being respected. True respect comes when you treat others with kindness and consideration, even in challenging situations.
2. The Power of Humility
Humility goes a long way in leadership. Don't lead with pride, don't lead with arrogance; instead, lead with humility. Those boys, with their simple but profound reminder about the power of "please," showed me that humility fosters trust and loyalty. When you approach leadership with humility, people are more likely to love you, trust you, and willingly follow your guidance.
The leadership lessons I learned from two mischievous boys in youth group have proven to be more valuable than any business seminar or corporate training. These lessons have guided me throughout my career in business leadership, reminding me that respect and humility are the cornerstones of effective leadership. So, whether you're leading a team of 20 kids or a team of professionals, always remember that "please" goes a long way, and humility is the key to earning the respect and trust of those you lead.