I have mentioned in the past that I was once a school principal. At the time I took over that post, I was just twenty-four years old. I have often thought that I learned more each year than anyone in the school. Looking back now, I see that I was way over my head if you know what I mean. There were teachers on my staff who were old enough to be my mother, and two of them were even old enough to be my grandmother! It was a great learning experience for me. Working with teachers, students, parents, lunchroom attendants, maintenance personnel, and daycare workers taught me much about leadership.
I quickly realized that if I wanted my staff to be flexible and willing to help in various situations, I would have to take the lead. I could not arbitrarily issue orders to everyone. That just would not work. Simply put, I had to earn the respect of everyone on my staff since I was the youngest one on the team.
A mentor of mine told me that the best way I could lead in my school was to be involved in every aspect of the daily program. In other words, if a teacher was absent, then I should be willing to step in and substitute teach the class. If a lunchroom attendant could not come, I needed to roll up my sleeves and go help in the lunchroom. And, speaking of rolling up my sleeves, if a toilet ever stopped up, I might have to be the first one to put my hands in it to fix it. That did not really appeal to me very much!
I received another piece of advice along those same lines. I was told that if I picked up whatever trash I might find in the hallways, it would not be long before others would follow my lead and see my attitude toward little things that needed to be done. A leader leads by example. A leader is one who influences others by his or her words and actions. I soon realized that I could never ask anyone on my staff to do something unless I was willing to do it myself.
In a school environment, you are sometimes left short-handed; often, it is in an area where immediate help is needed. I cannot tell you how many times something happened in the middle of the day, and because there was no one else to rely upon, I had to jump in and do whatever was necessary to handle the situation. As I mentioned earlier, it was a great learning experience, but even more than that, it began to teach me what real leadership was all about.
In time, I was able to ask my staff to fill in whenever there was an emergency. If I found myself substitute teaching in a classroom one day and there was a shortage of workers in the lunchroom, I would simply ask a teacher who had that period off if he or she would help. I was amazed and delighted to see the response I always would receive. I honestly cannot remember a time when one of my co-workers gave me a difficult time when I asked them to do something.
I now look back, many years later, and see that it was because of one concept that I had established on my team. I was willing to do any job that came my way to help make our school run smoothly, efficiently, and effectively. And, as I mentioned at the beginning of this Tip, I was the one who learned the most. To this day, I can still jump into nearly any situation and help. It is not because I think I am smarter than the next person. It is just because I learned at a very young age that if I was willing to roll up my sleeves to help, others would show me what needed to be done until I caught on and was able to do the job myself. It has been a life-long lesson that I will never forget and is still helping me to this day.
I do not know what your circumstances are today in your personal life, family life, or business, but I guarantee you that the solution to improving things is very simple – just be willing to help! When someone sees that you are willing to do the job that you later ask them to do, they will be much more prone to cooperate with a cheerful spirit and a dedicated heart.
The next time you wonder why people around you are not doing what you have asked them to do, maybe it is because they have never seen YOU do it. If you are willing to have a positive attitude and take a leadership role, it will not be long before you see people around you following your lead!
Tip: The best leadership principle ever discovered is still Monkey See, Monkey Do!
Have a great week! God bless you!
Dr. Robert A. Rohm