Super Leaders Open Doors

Great leaders open doors for other leaders. Great leaders also know when to knock. Be a door opener. Learn how to knock.

Who’s opened doors for you? What have you done to open doors for others?

Bill Treasurer, author of Leaders Who Open Doors, is collecting stories of leaders who have opened doors, or created opportunities for others. Today, I share my story of Dr. Henry Sims, who opened a door that changed the course of my career.

I invite you to recognize a leader who opened a door for you in the comments. This post will be included in Bill’s Leadership Open Door Fest on August 13th.

A SuperLeadership- Open Doors Story

When I was a young communications graduate student at the University of Maryland, I met the best door opener of my career. I was working on a research project around empowering leadership. I noticed that nearly everyone I was reading was citing the same guy, Dr. Henry Sims.  Since this was before the days you could google-up answers in an instant, I went to the library and found one of his books, SuperLeadership, Leading Others to Lead Themselves.

Dr. Henry SimsI flipped to the back page to read about the authors. I had to laugh. Dr. Sims taught across campus at the business school. I read the book in one sitting, picked up the book and my recent writing, ran across campus and knocked on his door. He stopped what he was doing and we talked for several hours, he practiced everything he had written about.

He led me to lead myself.

He asked provocative questions and made me think. He challenged me to consider my direction. Not just in my research, but in my career.

I left my paper with him for comment.

When I came back the next week, he said, “I think I can help you publish this (which we did)” and the next several hours of in-depth discussion led me to understand that what I really wanted to do was to be working in organizations, not studying them and that what I needed most was not an academic advisor, but a contact.

Then he began opening doors. The next week he took me to lunch with a director doing leadership work in the company I have worked for ever since.

Hank has remained my mentor and my friend. When I get stuck, I knock. He always has questions, ideas, and contacts (mostly other folks for whom he’s opened doors). I knocked just last month.

I asked Hank why he opens doors for students and others (ironically, I never did take a class from him).
In retrospect, the best part of my academic career has been the influence and support I have been able to provide to others. I have tried to act and behave as a “SuperLeader.”

The benefits of knocking is that some SuperLeader may open a door. Knock. Answer. Lead.

Another Favorite Book by Hank Sims: Business Without Bosses: How Self Managed Teams are Building High Performance Companies

*Photo Dr. Henry Sims, Super Leader, Door Opener

Prove it! Growing Leaders One Proof at a Time

They think it can’t be done. You do. Now you’ve got to prove it. Game on. Nothing’s more inspirational than having something to prove.

My team has spent the last 2 years proving “the impossible.” The more folks told us “it” wouldn’t work, the more fired up we got.

We wanted to prove that culture drives results– and culture can be built. It’s not only about extrinsic rewards. Engagement counts. So do trusted relationships. Partner. Inspire. Give both ways. Through an extensive collaboration across multiple companies, we’re creating complex proof that culture matters. Proving it is fun, inspiring, and leaves us salivating for more.

The hungry for more part is important, because proving yourself is never handled. Bill Treasurer told me, “even at your funeral, it’s likely you still will be proving something.” Leaders need to get used to that inspiring feeling. Prove yourself early and often then do it again.

5 Ways to “Prove It”

Tap into your team’s innate desire to “prove” something. They will grow. Magic will happen. Results will breakthrough. You’ll have some fun. Here’s how.

  1. Offer challenging assignments
    Offer projects that stretch your team beyond their comfort zone. Find impossible missions. Pick work that’s closely aligned with their innate passion or career goals.
  2. Create concrete goals
    The goal must be clear. What exactly are you looking to prove? How will you know when you have achieved it?
  3. Find some naysayers
    Create a rallying cry to “prove it” to those guys goes a long way
  4. Scaffold their growth
    Be the guy that believes in the mission, leave the nay saying to the others. It doesn’t feel good to have to prove something to your boss. Support them as they prove it to others.
  5. Repeat the cycle
    Celebrate the proofs, and then be ready with the next challenge. Keep them growing.

Powerful Perspective: Opportunities and the Arch of Time

You hear devastating news. Job loss. A diagnosis. A new baby with life-changing special needs. Your brain and heart rush through thoughts, prayers, next steps. It’s hard to gain perspective. This was not in the plan.

What now?

Perspective and the Arch of Time

I met with Bill Treasurer to talk about his new book, Leaders Open Doors. I was intrigued as to why he would be giving all the proceeds of his book to help children with special needs. His perspective is powerful. A daughter born deaf with cerebral palsy on top of life’s other complications.

“At first it was hard to adjust my expectations for what life with my daughter would be like. Now I realize that there are flowers in every situation.”

Bill believes in the perspective of the “arch of time.” The arch of time allows the good to unfold.

Over time, he’s experienced…

  • What courage looks like
  • Patience
  • Gratitude
  • New relationships
  • The desire to help
  • Opportunities

When the news is bad. It’s hard to envision anything good. How do you gain the strength to allow the arch to emerge?

Bill suggests envisioning 10 reasons you are grateful for the situation. If that’s too hard, imagine 10 positive outcomes that could come from it. And then be patient. Enjoy the mystery as each day unfolds. Celebrate the unexpected flowers.

Perspective and the Leadership Journey

How does such perspective apply to leadership? Don’t focus on the difficulty– focus on the opportunity. Don’t judge a situation too soon. Look for possible.

Bill and I share a common disdain for the phrase, “what keeps you up at night.” First, it’s over used. Second, it elicits the wrong conversation.

“It’s as if some leaders believe that the only way they’ll get any rest is as if the entire workforce shares their fears. Unless people are as afraid as they are, they think that no one will be motivated enough to address whatever is causing the leader to lose sleep.”

Keeping perspective is a powerful leadership competency. Inspire and motivate by providing opportunity, even in the darkest situations. Opportunity is motivating. Scaffold your team as they climb the arch of possibilities. The results may surprise you.

How do you keep perspective?