I’m not much of a businessman. I’ve owned two businesses. Neither did well. My first was a milk route in Corona, California. It may have been doomed before I began... I didn’t recognize what it was, where it was going, how to turn it around. The second was a graphic arts business. I had a few clients, but gave little heed to attracting more.
I have worked many jobs and they all came with their challenges. The biggest influence on the work wasn’t the tasks I was set to do but the managers. The boss could make fun work miserable, and difficult work intolerable.
I’m reading a book on business: Good to Great by Jim Collins.
It is an exciting book. Imagine that, I’m reading a book on business management and enjoying it!
The premise of the book is that certain companies have done much, much better than the market (up to 15 times better), and these companies have certain traits in common which not only set them apart, but the implementation of these traits occurred at the moment their fortunes shifted. The statiticians compared them to similar companies (products, service, markets, size) to discover what they were doing differently.
Part of the reason I am reading this book is to examine my own work... How can I help to shape my school (I’m a middle school teacher) to become the best? The best in the world? How can I shape my own teaching so I can become the best at what I do? Where am I weak, where do I fail my students?
I know I can be so much more than I am. But I won’t change much if I’m not honest enough with myself to see my failings, work to change them.
I’m just a cog in the great machine and though I can work to make myself mesh well with my surroundings there is something more important to the success of an organization than the desires of the toothy gears wanting to run smoothly.
The second chapter is about leadership. One would assume that a great leader would be a person with such charisma that all would seek to improve, to find inspiration and direction and guide them to greatness.
It isn’t so.
The leaders of businesses which transform themselves from good companies to great companies are men who exhibit compelling modesty.
Here are some of the qualities they discovered in every CEO of these companies which made such huge transformations:
“Demonstrates a compelling modesty, shunning public adulation; never boastful.
“Acts with quiet determination; relies principally on inspired standards, not inspiring charisma, to motivate.
“Channels ambition into the company, not the self; sets up successors for even greater success in the next generation.
“Looks out the window, not in the mirror, to apportion credit for the success of the company --to other people, external factors, and good luck.
Isn’t that a striking thing? The author calls this type of person a Level 5 Leader.
Think about how this type of person has shaped history.
Abraham Lincoln was a level 5 leader. Shy, modest, awkward, not charismatic. Yet he had an iron resolve to do whatever it took to achieve his goals. He may have seemed a hick from the sticks, but he knew what needed to be done and didn’t care if he got the credit.
Others come to mind... Mahatma Ghandhi, Mother Theresa...
My current boss isn’t a level five leader, but he has the potential to become one. He has vision. He doesn’t care who gets credit for the good things which are happening in our building. He is willing to listen to criticism, suggestions, ideas. Talking to my principal is more like talking to a colleague than a superior. He seeks to improve not only the climate and quality of our school, from the curriculum to the culture, but seeks to improve himself.
I would like to be more like that.
I have the weakness of wanting to hear that I am doing well, to have people recognize my efforts, to pat me on the back, to see my name in the paper. Even the way I write for this blog is so much about me. Why else would I be interested in the number of visitors, who they are, where the come from? Why else would I check the number of comments on various posts? Why else would I go over what I have written, sometimes editing them two or three times after they are posted? Obviously this blog isn’t just about getting my thoughts out, organizing my views for my own personal growth. It is too much about you, my reader.
I love you too much for what you do for me, not for what I can offer you. I love you because you say nice things about me. I love you because you come back to read my little posts stuffed into digital bottles and tossed into this electronic sea.
This is what I want to be. I want to be someone who truly cares for others. That this blog is about reaching people and not caring about what they think of me. Why else would I shield the readers of this blog from some of the other writings I have out there? I say it is that way because they are not central to the point of this blog, not following the direction I have set. But I think it may be more because I fear I might offend people who like me.
In reading this book I have done a great deal of thinking about another level 5 leader. He was a guy who didn’t really stand out. In fact, some indicators are that he wasn’t all that good looking. He had a name that was as common as “Joe” is today.
And at every turn He told folks to be quiet about what He had done for them. He told them instead to look to a greater goal.
He was modest. And He had every reason to lord over others. Because He was, is, the Lord.
5Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
6Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
7but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
Now there is a level five leader.
I want to be like that. I want to be someone who cares little of recognition and attention and being concerned about my rights, my share, my way.
I want to help others, and not worry about who reads this blog, who visits, or how many visit. I want to be someone who continually cares less about the recognition I may get about this or that program I run in my school or church and more about who is being served. I want to be more like my Lord, who loved so deeply, so greatly and so intrinsically that He cared little for His own suffering, His own torturous death, than the needs of those around Him.
Even at His “trial” He seemed to almost be reassuring Pilate, the man who would send Him to the cross! The Roman governor of Judea was looking for an out of the political situation he was trapped in and was practically begging Jesus to say the words which would allow a decision that would set this rabbi free. And God incarnate told him....
8When Pilate heard this, he was even more afraid, 9and he went back inside the palace. "Where do you come from?" he asked Jesus, but Jesus gave him no answer. 10"Do you refuse to speak to me?" Pilate said. "Don't you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?"
11Jesus answered, "You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin."Even as He faced a terrible death He was looking at the big picture and the individual. He saw the changes His death would cause, He saw the frustration of Pilate. He didn’t stand there and preach at the crowd, taking a last stand to shout His message at the pharisees and Romans. He let the life He had lived speak. He stood quietly before the jeering crowd, permitted men-shaped animals to drag Him to be mocked and beaten and... oh and so much more.
So... what is my lot? Am I to remain a hopeful cog in some greater machine? I don’t think it matters. What is important is that I look to the greater good and do what I can to serve others. It is important I see the larger picture as much as I can, and that I make myself as much of a servant as I can.
If I can serve you in some way, let me know. That would be something important this blog can do.