An organization is more than a producer of goods or services; it is part of fabric of the communities in which it serves. Over my nearly four decades in leadership roles in the financial, nonprofit, and public sectors, I have learned a lot about inspiring and motivating every organization’s greatest asset, its people. “People,” in this case, includes everyone who is involved with the organization: its staff, of course, as well as its customers and the other stakeholders with whom it interacts in a variety of ways.
People have always been the key to the success of any organization. That is even more true today, as technology streamlines our work while also challenging our ability to keep people engaged. Furthermore, with the current labor shortage, it is increasingly vital for organizations to attract and retain top talent.
I prefer a servant leadership style, which has suited me well in the many sectors in which I have worked. My strategic approach to growing revenue, reducing costs, and building relationships is to enable and support my team. I view my role as serving, supporting, and working for them, so they have what they need for us all to succeed. We also have a lot of fun together along the way! It’s about building synergy, so that our total organization’s accomplishments are far greater than the sum of the individual efforts.
Through my experiences, I have identified seven timeless truths that have shaped me professionally and personally. I call these the Seven Rs of leadership and life.
Respect – There is something to learn from everyone we meet, and identifying what that is and truly listening to other people, is a gift to both parties. People universally recognize and detest condescension, and that arrogance reflects most poorly on the condescending individual. It is so important to always treat people as you want to be treated.
Resolve – One must be driven, steadfast, and resilient in pursuing goals. Remember to keep an even temper, especially when facing frustration. Perseverance through repeated setbacks is often what sets apart those who accomplish incredible things in life.
Responsibility – Individuals must take responsibility for their own behavior and actions and honestly communicate that accountability. We all make mistakes, and the negative impacts of errors are compounded by denial or defensiveness. Accepting responsibility, addressing the problem, and committing to doing better next time are the keys to the humility and flexibility that are required for continued personal growth.
Readiness – There is a lot that we can’t control, so it is critical to be ready to seize opportunities when they come our way. Readiness is proactive preparation; it lets us recognize and quickly respond to chances when they arise. If we aren’t aware of or don’t move quickly enough when things line up, the time for action passes.
Right Thing – It is important to take the high road, to do the right thing, in all circumstances. We must have character when no one is looking and be ethical in interactions, both professionally and personally. This is the crux of being a moral person.
Relationships – Humans are fundamentally social creatures, and we all share a need and desire to have friendly, encouraging, and supportive personal and professional relationships. Relationships are not static; they must be built and cultivated. Close personal and professional relationships create a synergy that improves lives and makes everyone’s life a lot more enjoyable!
Recreation – All work and no play makes us stagnant, and, in the long run, less productive. Burnout is unpleasant, exhausting, and steals our creativity and energy. We need to consciously take time for our friends and family members, who are our most important relationships. Faith, however each of us perceives it, helps us to understand our role in life and how each of us can make the most of our time here. Having fun through it all is crucial, because happiness is as important to the human experience as productivity.
Sometimes, in the fast-paced, technological world that we live in, we lose some of the basic characteristics that are central to being a member of a community: empathy, relationships, and love. Being a part of a community depends on everyday human interaction to be positive, and it starts with each of us!
We can leverage the time-tested 7Rs of leadership and life in every interaction. I mapped the 7Rs to two leading life mottos that will help us thrive in this ever-changing world, while keeping our core characteristics top of mind.