“Leadership is not about the next election; it’s about the next generation,” Simon Sinex.
Growing up, I believed the best leaders ruled with an iron fist. I genuinely believed that leadership was about unapologetically dictating behavior. Furthermore, challenging the viewpoints or constructively criticizing a leader was utterly forbidden. Now that I am in multiple leadership roles, I realize those standards are rooted in destructive ego. I developed this theory based on the results in each of my mentee’s lives. They taught me empathy, pushing with love, and showing my flaws is the best way to lead. Through the application of these principles, my mentees have become inspirations for the change needed in this world.
Michael Jordan and Bill Belichick both share in common a fist full of championship rings and regarded as the best in their careers. They are both also known to be tyrannical leaders with little to no empathy for failure. Many would suggest the ends justify the means considering the success. I use these two historical behemoths and accolades because their way is what I honestly believed was the absolute pinnacle of leadership. I thought leadership was about the results regardless of the scars left during the journey. I was not only wrong, but I learned we all respond to different styles of leadership. Every time I let my ego get in the way of what is best for my mentee, they suffered tremendously. Empathy was something I only saw through one prism of feeling sad for another person. Leadership has taught me that empathy is understanding and showing my sadness by uplifting through action. Treat others as I would like to be treated is the golden rule that is the foundational root of empathy. I noticed how my mentees felt considerably more comfortable opening up to me when my empathy was displayed through character. Instead of ridiculing them for mistakes or bad decisions, I empathized with a mindset focusing on learning from the action. I realized they never fail; they only learn a valuable lesson.
The late Kobe Bryant said it best with, “No one’s expectations should ever be higher than my own!” Thank you, Kobe, because I use that ideology when explaining to my mentees never to worry about my expectations of them. I watched myself get caught up in thinking they were not doing enough and frustrated with their progress. I learned that leadership is not the throne of judgment but rather a guide for progress. I can push them with love by asking reflective questions that can point them in directions of inspiration. This process begins a dialogue that often requires me to do research and keeps my goal setting in a proper place. We are simultaneously lifting one another because I took the ego out of the equation. In years past, if a mentee did not listen to my advice, they were shunned because of destructive leadership. My spiritual immaturity was dysfunctional leadership that was detrimental to their growth. Instead of leading my flock, I was enhancing my ego that leads us both astray. I used to believe I was the blind leading the blind. However, I realized I was blinded and needed their vision. Developing a leadership style rooted in empathy, I have gotten more bees with honey.
There was a time in my life where challenging my leadership was equivalent to blasphemy. How dare someone who has not reached my sobriety or accolades question my position on a subject. I would say, “If you knew so much, why are you asking my help?” What has been revealed is that I am to give the message and not control how it’s received. I lead the horse to the water, and then it’s choice is not my rule. Leadership is not about dictating their actions for my beliefs; instead, I am to deliver information to my best ability. I am also to show my flaws as a human, so they understand I too need help. They are to feel equal and that this is a learning relationship for us both. If they are unable to critique my behaviors, then the hierarchical ego rears its toxic head. Leadership is a privilege and not a right. I set myself back years having “yes” men around me for the sake of my ego. Hurt people truly hurt people, and I was a classic example of that in my previous leadership roles.
Currently, I am blessed with a village of mentees from all different walks of life and blessed perspectives. By examining my deficiencies as a leader, I have grown in unimaginable ways. I learned the difference between love and ego. My mentees have blessed my life way more than I can ever bless theirs. I am more abundantly rich in my soul because of empathy, pushing with love, and showing my human flaws. Leadership taught me that love always wins, and ego is a deadly sin that can hold back generations of progress. Thank you to all my mentees because you taught me the real value of leadership.