My Grandmother owned Bakers Grocery. It was a small corner neighborhood grocery store. Grandma had lived through tough times herself so was exceedingly tolerant of the many who ran accounts that didn’t get paid. The value of working in my family’s businesses at an early age has lived on for a lifetime. Here are three bits of that early learning that every leader needs.
Leaders serve others
After school and on weekends during elementary school I delivered groceries in the Radio Flyer to people Grandma called “The Shut-ins,” people who were confined to their homes for health reasons. Grandma had been a school teacher in the south during the Great Depression so there was always a lesson when talking with her. I wasn’t simply told to deliver groceries nor was I simply told why it was important to do so. I was led through a series of questions to really think about why my deliveries were essential and how I could do better. The persistent lesson was that we make our way in the world by serving others. Mistakes, no matter how egregious were always corrected quickly and with kindness, love and clarity as to how to do better next time. How are you doing leader?
How would those you lead rate how well you serve?
How is your ratio of telling versus asking good questions that drive better thinking and learning?
Absolutes frequently aren’t absolute.
In the iconic business book “Built to Last” Collins and Porras advise us to “Avoid the Tyranny of the Or.” My grandmother would have agreed with them.
She busted me every time I said always or never, or attempted any other sort of binary thinking. Grandma was the original critical thinker. Highly opinionated and rigidly inflexible on matters of character, integrity and human decency, yet she was a persistent challenger of binary thinking. While formal education was very important to her, learning and considering possibilities was more so. She was an enemy of assumptions and consistent at challenging my thinking. “Why do you believe that?” was a common question. I like grand expectations and she had them.
The status-quo tends to live in a world of absolutes. How good is your team at considering the possibilities? What do you believe that is no longer true? What does your team believe that is no longer true?
Those who only show up for the candy are not your friends.
Saturday at closing time was pay day. Pay day meant free choice of any candy, ice cream or other treat in the store. I always seemed to have more friends from the hood on Saturday afternoons.
The higher we are in an organization the larger the number of people who look to us for leadership. It’s important to set the leadership example for all. Basic decency requires that we respect the dignity of everyone. Leadership requires tough decisions and the courage to have difficult discussions to help others learn and grow to create more leaders. That said, every leader has a short-list of those who are most critical to success. Those who are all in and don’t just show-up for the candy. These bonds must be exceptionally well maintained.
Featured image courtesy of Pexels.com.