Leadership sickness

“You sicken me.”

If I’m honest with myself, I have to admit that such harsh, judgmental thoughts fired off in my student leader brain fairly often. I felt frustrated (enraged?) when others just weren’t as committed about what our organization tackled. If a member lacked the commitment to grab a nice piece of responsibility and rock it, I paid her little attention.

I now realize I was being a jerk. And stupid. A stupid jerk, if you will.

Artful leadership isn’t just about attracting the best people. It’s about cultivating greater commitment from whomever shows up. Bit by bit. Action by action.

Your job is to challenge and inspire others to step up just a little bit higher. And then a little higher still. In practice, that can take a lot of effort and attention. But it’s worth it! I recommend you start by listing all the little things that need to get done. Then ask multiple members to tackle one such little thing, each.

“But Pete! They don’t know how to do it…and I can do it faster!” I know. You’re amazing. And it’s faster and easier to do it yourself…for now. But the investment you make in developing others pays off with greatness over time.

And if you don’t know how to enable others, I’ll reference one of my favorite guests at the Student Leadership Podcast, Tom Stein. He lays out five progressive phases to enablement:

1. “Watch me do this.”
I’m doing it all, you just watch and see how it’s done.
2. “Help me do this.” I’m doing 75 percent of the work and you’re pitching in a bit.
3. “Let’s do this together.” We’re collaborating as true 50/50 partners.
4. “I’ll help you do this.” You’re mostly running the show while I’m handling a couple trickier pieces and answering any emerging questions.
5. “I’ll watch you do this.” Just let me know if you need me!

It’s not all or nothing. You let members comfortably take on just a little bit more responsibility. Then a little more. People grow and develop in skill and commitment each step of the way.

What would happen over the years if everyone proactively cultivated rockstar, take-charge students one step at a time? Would you raise over $10 million every year for pediatric cancer? The THON folks at Penn State do. Would you create an across-the country bike ride? The students at Johns Hopkins did. Would you create a dance that goes viral on YouTube and attracts the attention of the White House? The goofballs at the University of Northern Iowa did.

Great leaders build great organizations bit by bit, challenging members to take one more action and gradually developing rockstars along the way. Does someone sicken you? Then deploy some medicine, drop by drop.

Credit // Author: Pete Mockaitis

Pete Mockaitis is on a mission to help students achieve greatness by sharing powerful knowledge they can put into action. Bring Pete’s highly informative, energetic, and humorous keynotes to your campus! More information can be found at campuspeak.com/mockaitis.