Updated: Nov 18, 2019
One of the integral characteristics of good leadership is the ability to leave others better than you found them.
Life is tough.
We all know that up close and personal.
Troubles come to everyone, although it’s true that some troubles aren’t really all that troubling. There are times when I’ve had someone tell me about why they are not coping and I’ve laughed ruefully (on the inside) and thought ‘Gosh, is that all you’re worried about? Ya wanna change seats for the day? I’ll show you a few things worth worrying about.’
But of course, I haven’t. I’ve looked them in the eye, put compassion on my face and talked them through the issues they’re facing, helping them isolate the pressures and find solutions for each one. In general they have left my office feeling much better than they did when they came.
And that’s one of the major characteristics required for a leader. You’ve got to be able to leave people feeling stronger, more hopeful and with greater resilience than when they arrived at the door of your office, or your table at the coffee shop.
Studies and statistics show that when people are hopeful they are healthier, they live longer, they have a greater capacity to carry pressure, and they have far more ability to win through their circumstances to live a successful and empowered life.
Hope is not just key to our success but to our survival. Without hope, faith has no platform to build on.
People die of hopelessness. They give up the fight because they can’t see a way forward. One of the key reasons for suicide is loss of hope.
That’s why it’s vital for a leader to be a bringer of hope in difficult circumstances and to people who have lost their way in the midst of the forces and stresses that are stealing their joy and strength.
Having a title is not synonymous with being a leader, a fact that creates great chagrin among groups who previously thought otherwise and found their mistake through bitter experience.
John Maxwell says you can pick a leader because people are following them:
‘Leaders are influencers. If no one is following you, you’re just taking a walk.’
If a leader is not influencing people, whether to the good, the bad or the downright ugly, they are not leading.
By that definition, Hitler was a good leader, turning the heart of an entire against their own friends and neighbours, with the result that the population was ripped apart by the destruction his leadership caused.
In contrast, Nobel Peace Prize winner Mother Teresa founded an organisation that is active in 133 nations caring for the poor, the sick, orphans and families. The charity she established now has more than 4,500 nuns carrying on her legacy. She was not only a good leader, but a leader in goodness. She certainly found ways of leaving people better than she found them.
Leaders vary in shape and size. They vary in degrees of influence and the magnitude of the organisation they are leading. Regardless of the size of the group you are called to influence, leave people better than you found them.
That’s how your mission, whatever it is, will be accomplished.
What about you? Are there some leaders who’ve strengthened and encouraged you to go again? Or are you one of those leaders?