In my 20's I thought leadership was an equation.
Relationship + Motivation = Result
Every leadership book I read was sifted through this equation. I assumed everyone had a "hot button" like they could be motivated to do more if I said the right thing, listened the right way, behaved a certain way, gave them the right vision...etc etc, you get the picture. The big problem with seeing all of leadership as an equation is that the common denominator in every challenge was me showing up the right way.
Batting a thousand is a ridiculous thought.
I'm learning where I let go is going to be the place I am most likely to succeed. I've discovered I can't control anyone, I simply don't have that level of influence. The one person I can influence on a daily basis is myself. Formerly, I shared an idea to persuade; I saw it as a form of motivation. There's something powerful about the idea in your head when you don't expect it to motivate anyone. It becomes a motivator for yourself, you actually have the ability to act on it because if it fails it doesn't speak into your identity in a negative way.
Wonderful things have happened as I've given up on attempting to surprise attack someone else's thoughts hoping to motivate them. I've seen these three changes in my own leadership:
1. I have a greater sense of thankfulness - At the end of the day I don't deserve much. Little things have become big blessings as I've given up trying to be, say, or do the right thing to motivate people. I almost got a little emotional today at Chick-fill-a watching their staff serve people and say, "It's my pleasure." It's a good place to be when you can serve someone and simply say, "It's my pleasure."
2. I'm enjoying relationships more - It's nice to feel like I can lead and expect less of people. I don't mean to make this sound like I've given up on people because that's far from where I am. But I certainly feel like I am holding loosely to people in a way I never have before. I don't want people to walk away from my leadership as a fully wrung out towel, instead I want them leaving with a dripping towel because they are so full of life.
3. I'm more comfortable with the struggle - Maybe it's a guy thing but I've always felt like I'm either controlling my destiny or it feels like I'm failing. And if I had to lead others to accomplish my destiny than you can imagine how I probably behaved if someone wasn't cooperative. Struggle doesn't feel like failure any more. Struggle is the street sign we are headed the right direction. Steven Pressfield in the War of Art talks about the resistance to creating art, creating something from nothing, and how the resistance inside of us is the signpost to knowing we're creating the right thing.
Ultimately, we won't be comfortable with any of this until we can separate our performance from our identity. If our identity is wrapped up in results than we see every relationship as something we motivate to an end result.
No one wants to have that type of person as a leader.