Leadership = Investment

In my research on leadership development I typically come across the same themes: qualities of effective leaders, elements of team building, etc.  I’ve found, however, that a term germane to leadership is often missing:


The concept is so fundamental to leadership development that it is often overlooked.  When I mention it in my workshops, I often see that flicker of light in the eyes of my audience members as they reconnect to this simple truth: there is no leadership without investment in those who are led.

Often, the first thing that comes to the audience’s mind when I mention that leaders must invest in those they lead is money.  And they are correct.  In order to get to know people, find out what makes them tick, learn their strengths and weaknesses in order to effectively task them, one must spend money.  As an example, when I became Executive Director of a non-profit in Boston, one of the first things I did was take my entire staff out to see a movie and then to a local eatery for dinner and drinks.  On my dime.

I found the investment to be worth every penny.  Not only did the movie help to bond us (I took them to see Amistad, which provided much heartfelt discussion afterwards), but it allowed us to talk to one another as men and women; people instead of just colleagues.  And nothing bonds people more completely than food and beverage.  We learned more about our common interests and differences in that one night than many had in years of working together before I arrived.  Finally, the next day, I bought each staff member a violet for their desks (you’d have to see the movie to understand the significance).

That relatively small investment allowed me to quickly get to know my staff, while they in turn got to see what makes me tick.  That knowledge proved invaluable in forming trust between us, and gave me the insight to not only effectively task each staff member, but to know who needed training and development in which areas.

Although the importance of money cannot be understated when examining leadership and team development, I’d say that an even more important commodity must be invested by leaders: time.  There is no substitution for it.  Effective leaders inherently know that 20 minutes discussing the health of someone’s close family member, even during busy work hours, can do more to build a productive team than cracking the proverbial whip.  Or saying a prayer over the phone with a friend who has called you out of the blue.  Or taking the time to listen to a community member who asks you for change to take the bus, and tells you why it’s needed.  Or listening to a frustrated teacher who calls you for help educating your child.  In other words, while people often think that leadership development is only a work/career thing, I submit to you that you are part of many teams: workers on the job; family members; the community; your local school, etc.

Time is the key ingredient to be invested in all of them.

For those of you who see yourselves or wish to see yourselves as effective leaders, I have but one question: how much do you invest in your teams?

Sound off!

Broadcast Your Inner Champion

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