His khaki shirt was crusted over with salt residual from perspiration that had occurred earlier in the day. The center of his back was soaked. I’m sure it was wet under his arms as well, but from my view walking behind him, all I could see was a big wet circle on his lean and leathery upper torso. My grandfather was a hard worker and was teaching me how to work at the same time.
There was a piece of land that needed to be cleared. He had said the night before that he “needed my help”. I know now, looking back over the mountains of memories created by him, he did not in fact need my help. It was the other way around. He knew I needed his help.
Andrew Jackson Briggs was teaching me the basic principles of leadership. Even as an 11-year-old, I was compelled to follow him when I saw his passion and persistence aimed at getting a job done. So, when he leaned into his work, so did I. When he would make a swing with his axe, so would I. All day I followed him, focused on that renewed circle of sweat on his back, at my eye-level. Most of the time he never looked back but seemed to confidently know that I was following. He talked while he worked. It was sometimes instructive, at other times it was words of affirmation about how he couldn’t do what he did without my help. The loudest lessons were the ones I learned during his silence. The only sound was the chopping of our axes. It was in these moments that I saw my first pictures of true leadership and learned that well placed actions speak much louder than well practiced words.
Today, when I struggle with knowing if I’m a good leader, or when I start to doubt my ability in getting others to follow me, I go back to what I learned on a wooded piece of land in Louisiana. The basics of leadership worked then and they work now! They are foundational and fundamental to all leadership. LEADERSHIP ISN’T THAT COMPLICATED!
- Be a good example. When lessons can’t be taught, they can be caught!
- Share with others your specific intentions. They can’t help you win if they don’t know where the goal is.
- Be brave enough to turn your back. It’s true you have to inspect what you expect, but if you’re to lead effectively you have to trust eventually.
- Communicate. Not only discuss with your team instruction and intentions, but just talk. When you lead intentionally, I’m not sure there is such a thing as “small-talk”. This is how and when longterm relationships are formed.
- Spill your passion. What are you willing to sweat for? People will help you discover the “when” and “how”, when they see your WHY.
Sometimes leadership is best exemplified with a sweaty shirt. Now, it’s your turn to do something. “Not looking to your own interest but each of you to the interest of others.” Philippians 2:4
Until next time – Be inspired! Be informed! Be a passionate leader!