3 key leadership lessons

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There’s a fundamental difference between managing and leading. Managing is about organizing and directing whereas leading is about having a vision and being able to motivate people to take action. When it comes to the latter, I’ve had a number of role models over the years both in public and private sectors. From these individuals, I’ve learned three key lessons about leadership:

  1. The world is run by those who show up.
  2. Don’t make it personal.
  3. Sharpen your saw.

Showing up — This is about not just setting goals, but getting up every day and striving to achieve them. It’s like training for a marathon; you’ve got to put your miles in. And by showing up, I mean really being there…being fully present in a room when decisions are made. When people are talking, make sure you’re really listening and not just thinking about your response or something else.

Don’t make it personal —  This revolves around respect and diversity. Before you can be understood, you must first seek to understand. In this age of decisive politics and philosophies, it’s especially important we create an environment of respect. It starts in the workplace, trying to understand other perspectives and recognizing the value in diversity. Certainly, you can fundamentally disagree with people, but that doesn’t mean you disrespect them. Respecting diversity, whether it’s opinions or personalities, makes a huge difference in your ability to get things done and bring people to the table.

Granted, this is easier said than done. Most of us come to the table with a particular filter and set of baggage, believing we are right. It takes a higher level of leadership to understand there is more than one right answer. You can draw better conclusions from a diverse mindset — and by only speaking to people aligned with your perspective, you’re hindering opportunities.

Sharpen your saw — Commit to life-long learning. The one constant thing in life is change. This applies to people’s careers, roles and responsibilities. Where you start isn’t going to be where you finish. To continue to be productive and successful, it’s important to continuously educate yourself. Part of this learning process is cultivating a curiosity of how things work. Entrepreneurs, in particular, have that trait, which sparks the kind of innovation that leads to new markets, new opportunities and future growth for companies.

Hundreds of books have been written about leadership, from overcoming adversity to motivational techniques. All good stuff, but to me, it boils down to these three things.

Originally published on LinkedIn January 25, 2017

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Dan Wyant
President of Edward Lowe Foundation
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“To me, leadership is about building a team, trying to get the best out of others, and helping them be successful,” says Dan Wyant, president and chief operating officer of the Edward Lowe Foundation.

“If done right, the impact should be lasting.” In this series of articles, Wyant shares insights about leadership gleaned from more than three decades of managing entrepreneurial and conservation organizations in the private, public and nonprofit sectors.