LeaderSHIFT Part 1: It's The Shift We Go Through That Makes The Difference


My first car was a 1966 robin's egg blue Volkswagen. It had 5 gears, several dents and a spare tire under the hood. It also had a manual transmission and a broken parking brake. As a 17 year old, I hated it. Actually, let me rephrase that. I loved the car! I just hated the shift I had to go through to drive it. Left foot clutch, right foot gas, right hand shift. It wasn’t easy. And, If you were stopped at a red light on a hill, well, you were in big trouble. A stalled car rolling backwards with a 17 year old at the wheel isn’t pretty.

A manual transmission was just to much for an impatient 17 year old to think about. Learning the timing and rhythm of when I had to upshift or downshift or stay in neutral was a nightmare. I can remember stalling my car for the one hundredth time while trying to make a right hand turn. I was so frustrated that I would never get the hang of shifting gears that I guided the car to the curb, got out, and walked away.

That’s right, I got out, closed the door, and walked away. I couldn’t wait for the day when I could afford an automatic transmission, a transmission that did the gear shifting for me. Simple to use and easy to operate. Just put it in “D” and drive.

I have also observed good leaders try and make a turn, stall, get frustrated and walk away. I have been there myself. Good leaders stall, it’s part of the process. Good leaders even walk away from time to time but great leaders always come back, grind a few gears and eventually get the hang of it. It’s all apart of our LeaderShift.

Lets face it, we live in a automatic world. Cars that brake for us when an accident is imminent. Cars that can park and parallel park for us with the push of a button. This can be both good and bad. It's good because things that we used to do manually can now be automated to save us both time and effort. However, over automation dupes us into thinking there are certain things we can automate when the reality is we need to acquire the skill to do it ourselves.

Automation doesn’t always mean easy, sometimes it means lazy. Skills we would have developed as leaders through the difficulty of grinding a few gears and suffering though a few stalls have been replaced by the assumption that we can automate leadership and drive through life and lead others without any accidents. I’m sorry, but I believe leadership will always have a manual transmission because you can’t be a great leader until you learn how to shift.


LeaderSHIFT Requires 3 Things


1. Leadership Requires Awareness

Specifically, awareness of what is going on around us. Leadership isn't all in our mind, it’s in our heart and in our soul. It’s in our emotion. The ability to sense and feel the emotional temperature of a room room. Seeing people who are hurting but pretending to be fine is not being emotionally aware. The ability to get the emotional pulse of a person who needs encouragement or help requires awareness. A necessary shift in leadership.


2. Leadership Requires Availability

An emotionally unavailable leader can be difficult if not impossible to work with or work for. They are often seen as distant, disconnected and distracted. They appear insensitive to the needs of others, set expectations to high and fail to listen to others around them. In a word, they like “control.” Emotional availability requires a shift. Understanding where others are coming from and considering their point of view requires walking a mile, if not physically then emotionally, in their shoes. Great leadership are available.


3. Leadership Requires Action

Someone has to make the decision and not only do leaders need to make the tough decisions they must bear the consequences of the decision they have made. Automatic leaders have a tendency to make decisions based on consensus and while that is occasionally a good choice its’ not often the best choice. A leader shifting through life will make a decision and not only bear the consequences of a bad one they will pass the success of a good one to the team around them.

An automated leader who puts their day in “Drive” and accelerates through life lacks awareness, availability and action. A leader who has the skill and ability to make subtle changes and shift their leadership throughout the day is a leader who maintains a mindful connection with their team, their boss and God Himself.

Shifting gears requires practice, skill and understanding. Shifting throughout our day not only keeps us engaged and mindful it keeps us aware of our speed and when we need shift out of gear and come to a stop.

Question: Has your leadership become automated? In what way? How can you be more mindful as you lead today?

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com Image ID: 2513202 © Galoff