When I was in college, I worked a few summers as a camp counselor. To this day, I truly believe the world would be a better place if every young adult did this important work. In addition to learning what it means to be authentic – it’s tough to sing and dance around a campfire without letting your guard down – I also gained a perspective on the human experience that has stuck with me.
At camp, it was absolutely 100% mandatory that we welcome, be open, and give love to every single child. It didn’t matter what their background, personality, or behaviors were. Of course, sometimes it was harder than others, but we tried hard to give those kids an amazing week. For us, that started with seeing and knowing them as individuals with stories and potential.
This simple thing that was required of me taught me to lean into a much more positive leadership style. I quit judging based on preconceived ideas. I started asking more questions. And, I learned a deep sense of curiosity about other people’s life experiences.
It turns out that working as a camp counselor is a perfect role for practicing leadership very early in our adult lives.
Leadership Today isn’t Quite as Easy
In my little camp world, I was isolated and encouraged to forget about what was happening ‘out there.’ We were able to practice leadership in a bubble, unencumbered by the news, responsibilities, drama, and all of the other things that surround us everyday.
If only we could all head back to that safe bubble today and lead with such innocence.
But, alas, we can’t. The massive amount of factors that influence leadership decisions today is dizzying. Leadership is brutally hard. In fact, I get frustrated with people who attack or, in today’s language, cancel good leaders who make the wrong or unpopular decisions at times. Afterall, aren’t we all humans that make mistakes? And, isn’t it true and good that we learn from our mistakes and do better next time?
Recently, I was reading Hubert Joly’s book, The Heart of Business. It is exactly what you might expect based on the title. Joly shares his principles of leadership, which of course start with leading from the heart. Joly also recognizes the overwhelming factors that affect a person’s ability to lead well, then goes further to describe the outcomes of all this pressure on all workers. “Employees, customers and even shareholders expect much more from corporations than a blind pursuit of profit. Disengagement at work is a global epidemic… A new civil rights movement and the Covid-19 pandemic have accelerated the need to rethink all of our systems.”
I worry for all of you leaders. Are you all doing ok?
So, What Can we do?
The problems are big and we can’t just gather around the campfire and sing kum-ba-ya to feel better. So, how can we be strong leaders in the midst of so many challenges and discouraging factors?
Perhaps the camp model isn’t as far off as we think. Perhaps we need to find ways to create safe bubbles for ourselves and those we serve to show up and be at our best?
Joly offers his 5 Be’s as a foundation for leadership. Upon reflection, I’m certain that these are the very same principles that I learned as a camp counselor and still live at the heart of good leadership.
- Be clear about your purpose, the purpose of people around you, and how it connects with the purpose of the company.
- Be clear about your role as a leader.
- Be clear about whom you serve.
- Be driven by values.
- Be authentic.
Perhaps instead of tackling all of the distractions, and chasing all of the shiny objects that step in front of us, we could intentionally lead from these simple 5B’s and apply them to our daily work.
What if we view leadership as BEING more, not DOING more. If we are more our authentic selves – guided by our own certainty, inner knowing and conviction – we could all be better leaders — personally and professionally.
Digging Deeper into the Core of YOUR Leadership
There is no better time than now.
Your to-do list:
- Go buy Joly’s book and read every word of it!
- Download our “5 Be’s of Purposeful Leadership” and walk through Joly’s 5 Be’s to get clearer on who you are as a leader.
Of course, if you need help teaching, encouraging and promoting these principles in your workplace, let’s talk!