That’s Gonna Leave a Mark

The leader who has the most impact on your day-to-day behavior is, in fact, not the CEO, the COO, the CFO, or any other C—unless, of course, you report directly to that person.

 Excerpted from The Truth About Leadership
by James Kouzes and Barry Posner

I really like The Truth About Leadership, even if it is a bit analytical for my personality! And the quote from this book reinforces what we’ve all heard before: People don’t leave companies, they leave their bosses.

As a “C Level” leader, I believe it is my responsibility to enlighten employees that I am not the most important leader in our organization. The leaders who have the most influence in our team members’ desire to stay or leave, to support our vision and values, to perform at a higher standard, and to wow our clients with service are their immediate managers.

Now, I realize I’m taking a slight risk with my C-Suite peers who might not agree with my stance. Understand that I’m not undermining our value. Of course our roles are important!

My intent is for leaders at every level to understand that it isn’t just the executives who impact the drive and the culture of the company. A company’s drive and culture are most influenced by its managers, by the people who have employees who report directly to them on a daily basis. They’re the ones who leave a lasting mark.

Think about three leaders who’ve been the most influential role models in your life.

The chances are you thought of family members, teachers or business leaders. I don’t know about you, but this heightens my sense of urgency and responsibility.

If you are at any level of leadership or plan to lead someday, realize that you are taking on a sizeable level of responsibility that could make you one of the biggest leadership influences in someone’s life.

If this thought doesn’t send a chill down your spine, then you’re not approaching it with a servant mindset.

Being a leader isn’t a goal to achieve; it’s a calling to accept.

I love the quote by Andy Stanley that says, “Leadership is stewardship. It’s temporary and you’re responsible.” This quote holds a lot of meaning for me. Here’s how I break it down:

Leadership is stewardship. This means leadership is not about residing at the top of the organizational chart or in a corner office. It’s also not about having a fancy title and depending on others to tend to your needs. Steward means guardian or custodian.

It’s temporary. None of us will lead forever. If you had only six more months to lead, what would you do differently in your current position? This temporary reality, whether six months or six years, should motivate you to be courageous with your decisions, with the mark you choose to leave! Will the people and the company be better off under your leadership watch?

And you’re responsible. Leading isn’t a prize; it’s a responsibility! So many times we promote a good producer to a leadership position, but we fail to establish our expectations. Leading comes with a lot of rewards, but it also comes with a lot of sacrifices. Great leaders have a sense of respect for their role as a leader.

Regardless of your title or level of leadership, if you have people reporting to you, you are leaving a mark. The question is what kind of mark is it?

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