How to lead in uncertain times (Part 3) – The #1 priority of the best leaders, past and present

For this special edition of the For You Leaders Podcast, we focus on another way you can improve your leadership and be a force multiplier, especially in this time of uncertainty. By studying the patterns of great leaders from the past, as well as working closely with thousands of leaders, we have identified a short list of priorities the most admired leaders have consistently used to navigate through difficult times. Today, Kirk is going to share the number one priority of every great leader, both past and present.

It’s overly obvious and embarrassingly simple, but not easy. Kirk talks about the three steps you need to take in order to connect with your team so you can lead them well. He also talks about the most important person you need to take care of, before you can take care of others, is yourself.

Listen to this podcast for some practical tips on how to lead well, the benefits of connecting and how to find out what kind of leader you really are.

Make sure to subscribe to the For You Leaders Podcast on Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts. 


Chip: Hi, I’m Chip Hanna and this is another very special episode of the For You Leaders podcast with Kirk Dando.

We’ve been getting a lot of questions and comments about how do we lead during these uncertain times? So we’re continuing a series that Kirk and I are putting on with the other leaders that we work with and just some points and some takeaways on how to really lead during these times.

I came across this tweet, and I’m not the only one that came across this tweet , from a guy I don’t even know how to say his Twitter handle, I’ll put a link in the notes, but he tweeted, “For my next job interview, I’m going to ask my future employer: what are the things you’ve done for your employees during the COVID-19 community quarantine?”

And I thought that was a really interesting question. I think he was, you know, trying to stir the pot a little bit on it, but people are gonna look at how we lead during this time and it, it’s an interesting way to look at it. How are people gonna talk about in the future, how you led during this very uncertain time?

Kirk: Yeah. Chip, I want to real quickly again, take a moment. Just recognize and appreciate the people that are taking the time to listen this and if this can help a friend or a family member or someone that you know, please do pass it along. Once again, not, in an effort to be opportunistic here. We truly do want to help and provide perspective. And if there’s an opportunity to pay it forward and help someone, and I would ask that you please do that. But, for now, I just want to recognize and tell you how much we appreciate you for listening. And Chip, I agree. I mean, I loved that tweet and the first thing my mind went to is the opposite side of that coin is as an employer, it will be interesting as people are interviewing to ask them the question of, “what did you do? How did you show up and make a difference during the crisis of 2020? In your family? In your organization? Give me an example of how you came alive because, as we’ve talked about, crisis, sometimes it’s the only way that we can take advantage of things and grow. Some of the best things that have happened in my life were from really tremendous loss.

Loss of child, loss of a job, loss of relationships, but I can look back very favorably over those times and see what I learned and how I grew that I otherwise would not have let go of things that I need to let go of and learn inside of a crisis. And we’ve been in crisises before. Some of us were, you know, right in the middle of what happened in 9/11 and can remember where we were at when that happened.

Or the crash of 2008, if you were impacted by that, good or bad, no doubt you, you reflect on that. Or, in 2005, the SARS and bird flu. In 1918, the Spanish flu and polio. 1960, measles. 1963. Cold War in the forties and fifties. The Great Depression of the 30s. So we’ve seen crisis before, and I, and I firmly believe that both success and failure leave footprints. And that’s something that I’ve been studying for a long, long time now is: what and how do we not only get through crisis, but how do we lead, well, what do we do to lead well? And there’s really kind of seven things that I’ve recognized that are pretty consistent and that’s convenient to get it down to seven and that wasn’t the goal when I set it out to do it.

As far as I’m concerned, it was a thousand, but there’s seven things that kind of keep coming up and they keep coming up. When you watch great leaders of the past, military leaders, religious, business leaders, community leaders, leaders that you may be, have been close to in your life and think about these things, and we’ll be talking about these in the days to come.

But really the first priority of every great leader in a crisis and really otherwise is they put people first. They really put people first, and the name of this podcast and allow me for a moment to talk about this. And once again, it’s not trying to promote the name of this podcast. It’s trying to help you understand and have context for why we named it this.

From a young age, I have watched leaders, I have been very, very positively impacted by some leaders in my life that I watched and I admired and I studied very carefully. And they sent me on a trajectory. They saw something in me I didn’t see in myself. And maybe you’re thinking about somebody like that right now, you and your leadership story, but I’ve also been very, very negatively impacted by leaders, people of influence that had influence in my life, whether they knew they had influence or not in my life, doesn’t matter. They were leaders in my life and they really hurt me. They spoke lies over me. They told me what I was not capable of and in those moments I had to make a decision to either believe those lies, nurture those lies, and live in unison with those lines, or I had to step out of them.

Either way, I started to recognize there was three kinds of leaders. The first kind of leader and the leaders that are truly dynamic, that when a crisis shows up, they’re there. Versus leaders, when a crisis shows up, the crisis shows them up. There’s a leader that’s for you. These leaders are not weak. They are not frail. They are of high integrity. They have values. They are for you. They care more about what they can put into you than what they can get out of you. They are great at unifying people to a purpose or purposes. They care about who you are. They want to know what makes your heart sing, what brings you joy.

They want to know what makes you cry, what burdens your heart and drives you towards passion. And they want to know what your dreams are. What would you do if there were no limitations? If there was no fear of failure, and they want to help you take the next step, that’s a for you leader.

Then there’s leaders that are against you.

They just, you know, for whatever reason, you might remind them of somebody that hurt them when they were little. You might remind them of somebody that was bullying them on the playground, or maybe they just have a way in life that they look and just feel like a victim of life. I’ve learned a long time ago: the way we view things determines how we do things and the way we view things determines how we approach and think about things. And so regardless, there’s these leaders out there that they just are against you for whatever reason it might be, and they just want to see you wrecked. Now, that’s pretty rare.

That’s very, very rare. But they’re out there.

And the third kind of leader is a leader that’s for themselves. Now because there’s so much distributed out in the marketplace about what it means to be an effective leader, and there’s so much information and content on, on the skills that are required to be an effective leader.

These “for themselves leaders” can get away with it until there’s a crisis, until there’s a crisis, and then you see their real agenda come out. You see that a for you leader believes that each of us has a seed of success inside of us and what it takes to find that seed of success in someone else, it takes commitment and it takes diligence and you’ve got to care. You’ve got to care about who they are, where are they at in their journey, and how can I help them take the next step. A “for themselves” leader cares about their agenda. They care about the fact that maybe there’s not a big enough pie and they better grab as much as they can. They care more about what they can get out of you than what they can put into you.

I think we are seeing a time that is going to redefine how we not only look at, but how we adopt and follow leaders into the future. I think for you leaders create for you leaders and I think for themselves leaders create for themselves leaders. Think about your leadership story. Think about if people were sitting in a room right now and you weren’t there, how would they describe you?

And some people will say, well, sometimes I’m a for you, and sometimes I’m actually against you. And sometimes I’m for myself. Don’t make it harder than it needs to be. It’s a very easy concept. What would people say if you weren’t in the room? What kind of leader you are? Well, I think this is going to extend well beyond this crisis that we’re in.

I think we’re going to have a low level of tolerance for passive leaders who are more interested in pursuing prestige and power and their own agenda than they are helping others lead. And for you leaders. And if you look back in history, the ones that have really made impact and that have really had a significant benefit to not only the crisises, but to our communities, and to the foundations that were built upon, were fundamentally for you leaders. And so one of the first priorities that great leaders do in crisis is they put people first. A vital aspect of any leader’s role is to have a positive impact on people.

Now we’ve all got to understand in the landscape of this crisis that we’re in people’s mindsets, their own survival, and their basic needs. Will I be sick or hurt? Well, my family, what happens? What happens then? What happens if I lose my job? What ha? And that’s, that’s natural instincts. And this is a time as a leader, you do not delegate the responsibility of the creating conditions of trust and emotional wellbeing for your team, for your family, for those that you have influence with and over. You do not have to commiserate with them. That’s not a way of connecting. That’s a way of commiserating, but you can still meet people where they’re at and then have a level of empathy and bring them along on the journey.

And I’m gonna talk about how to do that here in a second. But you’ve gotta, you’ve got to acknowledge both the personal and the professional challenges that people in your lives and loved ones are experiencing during this time.

Equally as important. Equally as important is you as a leader, not only do you have to demonstrate empathy.

But you yourself have to be open to empathy from others during these times. I’ve talked to so many leaders that they’re not happy about what’s going on, but they thrive in a crisis and they’re up to the challenge and, and it’s almost this bravado of, I don’t need help. And I want to encourage you to think about this differently because there’s something unique about getting a helper’s high from helping somebody else. Well, give that gift to somebody else and let them have a helper’s high by helping you and showing you empathy.

And even though you may do great in a crisis, if this goes on long enough, there will be stressed, there will be fatigue and no doubt, there will be more uncertainty.

And as that builds up, there is a chance, as leaders, that your ability to process information, to remain level-headed, and to exercise good judgment will diminish. However, if you take time to take care of yourself spiritually, physically, emotionally, relationally. What are you reading? What are you putting into your mind?

What are you feeding your body? What are you feeding your mind? If you will take the time and be intentional about it, and you may have to find an hour, and it may be from 4:00 AM to 5:00 AM. I don’t know when it is, but you’ve got to find that time to work out all the aspects because people are depending upon you to do it. They’re depending upon you to do that. When you invest time in your wellbeing, it will enable you to sustain your effectiveness throughout the course of this crisis.

So what I want you to do, what is my challenge for you, is I want you to think about how can I put people first?

Think about this. I told you I’d tell you this. This is how you take them on the journey. Take time. A lot of us have time because a lot of our travel’s been closed down. Meetings have been closed down. Unfortunately, some of the businesses has been closed down. We have extra time on our hands. Use it wisely.

Use it to find out the people that you care about and are helping you lead through this. Who are they? And what I mean by that is, is what do they dream about? What would they do if the fear of failure was gone. What makes their hearts sing? What brings them true joy? What burdens them? What makes them cry?

What drives them to passion? Who are they and where are they at in their journey? And find out how you can help them take the next step.

One time I was spending time with someone that worked with me a long time ago and, and I found out that they liked Harleys. I don’t know anything about Harley’s, but they loved them.

They were so passionate. When you talk to them, you could see their body language changed. They sat up straighter. They leaned into the conversation, their face put a smile on it and they always wanted to own one. And that’s something that just meant the world to them. So, I found out where the Harley dealer was and one day we went and rode Harleys and just spent time thinking about what that looked like.

I didn’t, you know, I rode it around the parking lot cause I didn’t have my motorcycle license. But nonetheless, he got to ride it and share it with me and what he experienced. The point being is we connected. We connected and although we’re all right now having this social distancing, we can still connect through great questions and through empathy.

So that’s the first thing I want you to do. The second thing I want you to do is think about how you can take care of yourself. It’s critical. It’s absolutely critical. Your leadership voice can be louder than the noise that’s going on, but only if you take care of yourself. So thank you for listening. I hope this has been helpful.

If you have any recommendations, questions, things that you would like us to be talking about, leaning in what things that you’re hearing or seeing, please, we want you to join us in this walk. We don’t want to feel alone and we don’t want you to feel alone either. So thank you for the time. Uh, Chip. Any, any additional thoughts?

Chip: Yeah. that’s good, Kirk. And one thing that I always catch when we’re talking about helping people take the next step, you’re not putting them on your back and having them take, you’re not taking the next 50 steps for them. You’re literally just helping them take the next step. And I encourage people listening to help them with just, let’s just take the next step, not the next 400 steps, the next 10 steps, but what’s the one next step you can do to help your people take that next step in their journey?

Kirk: Yeah, that’s a really good call out, Chip. You oftentimes to me say, what’s the one win? What’s the one win we can get today? What’s the one win? And it’s similar to, what’s the next step? I think as leaders , especially if we have the habit of enabling others, we like to put them on our back and somehow we feel like that’s helping them, but actually, it’s hurting them. It’s causing them to atrophy their muscles of self improvement and discovering that they are more capable than they understand. So that’s a great call out.

Chip: Yeah. And that’s really not helping someone, if you’re putting them on your back and doing all the steps for them, that’s really not even being a for you leader. It’s showing how much you can do. And that’s not the point of this.

Kirk: Yeah. That’s, you know, there’s so many things that are stirring in this environment, and I think that our listeners are hopefully taking what are otherwise fairly complex scenarios or concepts and, and we’re helping you simplify and apply those because, as you’ve heard Chip and I say before, we believe that in order to take someone to a higher level, you’ve got to give them more than information skills. You’ve got to unlock that success that’s inside of them. And we hope that we’re able to do that through these conversations.

Please give us a feedback, not just on what you thought about today, that obviously it would be very helpful, but other things that we can be discussing and studying and helping lighten your load and expand your capacity so you don’t have to. And we’ll speak into those for you.

So, I want to thank you for listening to the For You Leaders podcast. We really appreciate you and we’re glad you’re on this journey with us. Have a blessed day.

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