Winning Well Connection
We first met Bill when he was publishing his first book– and I interviewed him to help share his message. Since then, we keep finding ourselves in the same leadership conversations and communities, and always enjoy connecting to share best practices. I love the way Bill taps into his own leadership experiences and stories to communicate the importance of confident humility.
The Starting Point of Good Leadership
Years ago I was coaching a young leader who was under a lot of self-imposed pressure. His dad was the second-generation owner of a $500-million-dollar construction company, and he had tapped his son as the eventual heir to the kingdom. But his son felt entirely unready for such an awesome responsibility. How would the company keep selling big projects to keep people working? How would he lead senior staff members, all of whom had more knowledge and experience than he? How would he, in short, live into his father’s footprints?
Complicating the matter was all the advice the young leader was getting. Everyone had a vested interest in having him succeed, so they were going out of their way to let him know what moves he should take. Though grateful, he was overwhelmed. “Bill,” he said, “I want to be a good leader, I really do. But people expect me to be tough, driven, and decisive, yet patient, friendly, and caring. I’m confused. Where do I start?”
You don’t have to be a CEO’s heir apparent to struggle with the same question. Leaders get a lot of mixed messages about what’s most important to followers. As a leader, you’re expected to be bold and calculated, passionate and reasonable, rational and emotional, driven and patient, principled and flexible, competitive and cooperative, strategic and tactical, and yes, confident and humble. Faced with all of these conflicting factors, is it any wonder new leaders scratch their heads and wonder, Where on earth do I start?
My advice to new leaders is this: if you want to be a good leader, start by being a good person. Leadership is an inside job. Before you can lead people outwardly, you have to lead yourself inwardly. Leadership starts with internal goodness, in other words, integrity. Goodness is not some pie-in-the-sky philosophical concept. It’s not some prudish, goody-two-shoes standard of stilted perfection. Goodness is practical. When you’re good, people trust you. They know you won’t cheat them, or violate their confidences, or mistreat them. They know you’ll consider their interests, listen deeply and share generously, and be respectful. They know you’ll never stop striving to do the next right thing.
Your goodness is the single most important determinant of whether followers will trust your leadership, and trust is crucial to good leadership. When people trust you, they’ll work harder on your behalf, they’ll have a higher tolerance for your idiosyncrasies, they’ll be loyal to you, and, most importantly, they’ll act with integrity too. Trust begets trust, and when you act with goodness it becomes an invitation for others to act with theirs, mutually strengthening the trust between you.
The good news is, when you focus on developing and strengthening your character, when you commit yourself to leading in a principled and honest way, and when you make serving others your primary leadership aim, you are exemplifying very essence of what my friends Karin Hurt and David Dye mean by the title of their essential leadership book, Winning Well. As a leader, you win well when your inner goodness informs all your leadership actions and decisions. You’re truly winning well as a leader when the best of you brings out the best in others. You want to be a good leader? Then start by being good.
Winning Well Reflection
When confronted with the overwhelming number of leadership examples, much less the amount of advice, you’ll encounter, it can feel overwhelming. That’s why we so appreciate Bill’s straightforward reminder that all leadership begins with you. Be a good human being who people can trust. That is the foundation of Winning Well – and all the influence you’ll ever have.