I have mentioned in the past that I was once a school principal. When I took over that post I was just twenty-four years old at the time. I have often thought that I learned more each year than anyone in the school. Looking back now, I see that I was in 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, all taught me so much about how to be a leader.
I quickly caught on to the fact that if I wanted my staff to be flexible and willing to help out in a variety of situations, then I was going to 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 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 got 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 would pick up whatever trash I might find in the hallways that it would not be long before others would follow my lead and see my attitude towards 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 and often it is in an area where help is needed immediately. I cannot tell you how many times something happened in the middle of the day and, because there was really no one else to rely upon, I had to jump in and do whatever was necessary in order to handle the situation at that moment. 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 go help out. I was amazed and delighted to see the response I always received. I honestly cannot remember a time that 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 in order to 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 am that smart. 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 one that is still helping me to this very day.
I do not know what your circumstances are today in your own personal life, family life or business, but I guarantee you that the solution to making things better 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 the “monkies” 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
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