Here’s a story of I wanted to share about how I am trying to implement leadership traits I firmly believe in, as part of my work.
It’s no secret I’m a huge fan of Simon Sinek, and one of his famous themes is Leaders Eat Last. I believe that a real challenge is to take care of people before we know we will be taken care of as well, and not after we know we are taken care of. Thus, it’s also about giving before receiving.
Also, I believe Sinek is right for claiming that “being in charge” should be taking care of the people “in our charge.” However, I came to learn that leadership also extends beyond those we are formally responsible for – thus, beyond our charge.
So, here’s a short story about it.
Giving before receiving
I recently came across a unique and rare business and career opportunity, which I was not available to take (if I was, I would have). I could have just move on right there, but I actually took action, put in some effort, and helped the people behind that opportunity get to the best person I know for the job, who is a colleague of mine, and who I consider a friend of virtue (more on that – below).
Then, as I am promoting my friend and this opportunity to one another, my situation changed, and I became available again. What should I do now?
Believing in honesty and transparency, I told both sides about this new situation. My friend did not hesitate to ask – “Assaf, should I drop out and give you the lead?”
That could have been great – only it’s not what I believe in. So, I paused for a second, took a deep breathe, and replied: “Don’t you dare. I want them to get the best person for the job. And, whatever needs to happen – will happen”. I then told my friend that if it was me who was to take the lead, I would definitely want someone like my friend right beside me. And, if it would be the other way around, I would of course love to help in any way I can.
Well, good news! Recently, I came to learn that my friend did get the job. Awesome. What would that mean for me? I don’t know yet. Let’s not pretend here — it’s not fun being left hanging, not knowing what is going to happen now. But for me, that’s exactly the meaning of “eating last”, and taking care of people before knowing that I will be taken care of as well.
Leadership beyond our charge
As stated in the beginning of this post, I came to learn and believe that leadership also extends beyond those we are formally responsible for. Meaning, not just our teams and employees, but also others around us. But, who are they? Which people outside our charge should we grow a sense of responsibility for?
- Friends of benefit: When your relationship is based on a shared (and in many times – temporary) common interest. But nothing beyond that. It’s simply that both sides benefit from the friendship. These could be business partners, friends from work, the other parents in the kindergarten or school of your kids, or your neighbors… You may see them often, but, take away the interest of being friends — and the friendship is over. No common benefit – no friendship.
- Friends of comfort: When your relationship is based on either pleasure or confidence. Those are the people in your life that always want to make you feel better. Will cheer for you, comfort you, and be your best fans and supporters. When you need them — they will be there for you. Your parents, your spouse, and others. But, beware of the echo-chamber effect. Beware of of listening to their “choir” and taking it as objective reality. They will not necessary tell you the truth you sometimes need to hear.
- Friends of virtue: When your relationship is based on a higher purpose. A shared vision or mission. Those are people who share the same desires and aspirations as you. You may not have the same “Shared Zone“, or the same “Why“, but your missions and intentions are at least in tangent to one another. You understand each other, especially when it comes to the pursuit of your goals and the “Chase.” They may not be friends of benefit, nor friends of comfort – but they can understand you in ways none of the others in the above categories can. They can also tell you the truth when you need to hear it. They want you to improve, be better, advance, succeed and get where you’re going – in part, since they also need you strong as they go there too! You all climb together to the top. As I came to learn from my WeWork Community Giver award experience – they are your Core Community.
And so, I would claim that we should also adopt responsibility for our friends of virtue. When we take care of those people in our life before we know they will commit to take care of us in return, I believe we express the highest form of leadership. Not a formal one that is based on authority, but rather a voluntary one that is based on service, kindness and greatness.
We rise by lifting others. – Robert G. Ingersoll
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I would like to thank Rabbi Angela Warnick Buchdahl for reminding me of this epic Rambam piece on friendship, during her talk at the 2018 ROI Summit.