If anything goes bad, I did it. If anything goes semi-good, we did it. If anything goes really good,
then you did it. That’s all it takes to win. — Paul “Bear” Bryant
People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will
never forget how you made them feel. – Maya Angelou
There is something in our organization we call the Essence of Leadership. To us Essence is the spirit of the quintessential leader. Our mission at Children’s Choice is to provide a model of quality; and the Essence is how we describe the model of quality leadership. Showing the Essence means walking the talk and practicing the BIG-HEARTED values we preach in terms of quality, relationships, and leadership.
Essence is a somewhat ethereal composite of many traits, tendencies, and techniques.
It is complex, but it is not complicated. In fact, it is quite simple. It is values-based servant leadership. Essence is based on loving and serving your mission, your people, and your organization. It is all about being a responsible, trustworthy, caring leader. It is about being the ultimate role model of a critically-reflective professional. It is about honesty, personal responsibility and hard work. It is about getting things right, not trying to look good. These traits are uncomplicated, but they blend together to portray the beautifully complex yet basically simple concept we call Essence.
Leaders with Essence are first and foremost trustworthy. They respond ethically in all situations by developing and maintaining the principles of integrity, responsibility, and respect for people. They work collaboratively and cooperatively with others in an atmosphere of trust that encourages dialog and information exchange. They create an “envelope of safety” in the program – a place that is emotionally safe to think and supportive of new ideas.
Leaders with Essence help people know where they want to go and understand how to get there.
They hold people accountable with tact and caring. They address issues of behavioral concerns or disagreements with coworkers in a way that is dignified, honest and respectful. They coach and empower others to take personal responsibility for their continuous development of competencies.
Leaders with Essence are innovative, creative, and think “outside the box.”
They embrace learning, and change and growth. They are critically reflective, changing their day-to-day practices based on new information, theory and changing situations. They make decisions based on what is in the best interest of key stakeholders. They take responsibility for mistakes but give credit for successes to their followers.
Leaders with Essence don’t expect staff to do what they won’t do.
They know that sometimes, good leaders “pick up a mop.” They spend a bit of time “managing by walking around.” They are PRESENT – out on the floor observing and discovering new ways to influence others, enhance program quality, and document stories.
Having and showing Essence virtually guarantees the success of any leader in the youth-development profession. When you show Essence, people will follow you, and support you, and help you succeed. When you develop the skills necessary to “exude” Essence, those skills will help you to gain friends, influence people, and take advantage of the opportunities that come your way in life.
Are great leaders born, or made? Answer: first they are born, then they are made! Essence is learnable. Essence is not about charisma. There is no genetic factor to Essence. You CAN dedicate yourself to being a student of and model of Essence. Developing Essence is a continuous journey. Do you strive to be a responsible, trustworthy, hard-working, positive, caring, assertive, and creative leader? If so, you are on the right path.
For breakfast, I had a few cups of coffee and some leftover smoked chicken from last night’s dinner.
Author Profile: @mikeashcraft