Our society tends to praise and glamorize style, but we often forget about true substance. Think about how often you see someone praised for their outward appearance, lauded for their accomplishments athletically, or recognized as a huge success for making big money in business. Now think about how often you hear about the work of the volunteer emergency responders in your community, single mothers who sacrifice everything for their kids, the coach or teacher who mentors young people, or the employee who helps a co-worker through a difficult time. If you’re like me, the answer is obvious.
Now, there is nothing wrong with the things in the first list. Recognizing people for doing great things and looking a certain way is fine, but it’s important for us to remember, particularly for leaders, that it’s the substance behind the style that really matters. More specifically, doing the right things the right way and for the right reasons. Leaders in all areas of life should be driven and motivated by the opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life. For instance helping a coworker advance their career, encouraging a child do better in school, or providing support to a neighbor during a hard time. The list of opportunities is endless! Unfortunately, human nature and the media often tell us that it’s more important to look out for yourself rather than others. It’s that mindset of needing to take care of yourself because if you don’t, then who will? You feel the need to do well at work to get a promotion, raise, or larger bonus. I believe the true essence of leadership is the exact opposite. Ironically, if you do the right things, the right way, for the right reasons, you can often get to where you wanted to go in the first place. At Interstates, we value servant leadership and believe the essence of leadership is to serve others.
I challenge you to consider the impact you make and why you’re making that impact. Is your goal is about style or self-serving? If so, you may want to consider thinking about your goal from the perspective of helping others as this can lead to a genuine feeling of accomplishment. There is no better day than today to challenge the way you think and lead to ensure there is true substance behind it. Former President ,Theodore Roosevelt, said “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Now that’s real substance.
Daren Dieleman, Interstates Director of Project Delivery