HME Leadership by the Book
Great leadership is shaped by timeless principles that do not change. How can you take some of the oldest "old school" leadership principles and apply them to modern HME business leadership?
- By Jonathan Walters
- May 01, 2018
Whether we are leading teams within an HME provider business, volunteering at a local charity, or coaching our kid’s soccer team, we all know the intrinsic value of great leadership. But while we know great leadership when we see it, often it is challenging for us to define, hard work to develop, and difficult for us to see those abilities in ourselves that we may admire in others. There is a seemingly endless list of ever-expanding leadership qualities, characteristics, and traits to choose from, but how do we know whose example to follow, how do we know what strategies will work in our environment? Isn’t there a quick checklist to follow, a podcast to listen to, or an app to download so we can get this right?
The beauty of great leadership is that it is shaped by timeless principles that do not change. One of the greatest places to check this out is to “kick it old school” and look at the lives, actions, emotions, and impact of those who have gone before us — way, way before us.
According to the Guinness World Records, the Bible (or the holy scriptures, or the Good Book, or whatever name you use to describe it) has sold more than 5 billion copies, easily making it the most widely promulgated book in history. Regardless of what you believe or don’t believe about the Bible, its authors, or its content, its pages contain some powerful examples of leadership styles and methods that are still applicable to today’s modern business culture, and positively enhance the way we lead.
The reality is that leadership is not easy and while we may readily see it displayed in the lives and actions of others, it can often feel like we are not equipped or have the skills to stand up, step forward, and take on the point position.
Let’s example five examples of leadership styles and actions on the part of figures from the Bible, who just like you and me, might have felt under-qualified, under-resourced, and without the perfect background, education, or training for the position in which they found themselves. However, their leadership revealed itself to possess five key qualities: they were visionary, relentless, humble, courageous, and compassionate. I think we could all agree that if someone described us as any of those types of leader, we would be proud to accept the description.
Imagine if you were pulled into a position of political leadership you never really wanted or expected and the moment you stepped into the role, the entire situation around you devolved into a virtual tinderbox of tension, death threats, and pushed you and your opposition to the brink of destruction.
That is exactly where a man named Moses found himself. In the beginning of his leadership story he was reluctant at best, and often wanted nothing more than to shift his responsibilities to those around him rather than bear the weight himself. However, as the turmoil around him intensified and the pressures increased, he became a true visionary and did what every leader must do: paint a picture of a future that his peers cannot wait to see. He succeeded thanks to constantly communicating a vision that connected the work, sacrifice, and tireless efforts of those he was tasked to lead with something greater than themselves.
Our role as leaders must follow this example of casting a vision that is clear so our teams understand, a vision that is concise so our teams can repeat it, and a vision that is compelling enough that our teams will give everything to make it a reality.
The culture of your company, organization, or team is always an accurate reflection of the vision you are speaking and living each day. If you don’t like what you see, it’s a great opportunity to begin making the changes that need to be made and today is a great day to start painting a more compelling picture.
Ask yourself: Does your team know your vision, can they repeat it, and are they willing to work hard to move towards it?
Have you ever found yourself way outside your comfort zone, but in that moment you knew what you had to do — and only you could get it done? Maybe you were tasked with a project that was bigger than anything you had tackled before, maybe the risks required were more than you ever thought you’d be willing to take, or maybe the situation demanded more of you than you thought you could honestly give. Fear, doubt, and insecurity were all telling you that you should stay right where you are, don’t take the chance, leave it to someone else, but deep down inside you knew that if this was going to happen, the time was now and you were the person who had to do it.
You were not alone! Nehemiah was a leader who lost everything, in fact, his homeland had come under attack by a foreign power, his hometown was destroyed, and he found himself a prisoner in a faraway land where he didn’t speak the language, didn’t understand their culture, and didn’t know what would happen next. It would have been easy, even acceptable, to give up and give in when the circumstances were stacked that high against him, but instead he moved to a mindset that all great leaders must possess.
That said, he became relentless in his work and efforts to return to his home and begin the rebuilding process — no matter the risk, no matter the costs, no matter the snarky comments from those who thought he was crazy to even try. As leaders, we have a great responsibility that when we know what needs to be done, nothing should be able to stand in our way.
We work in a competitive marketplace where it can be easy to look around us and think that everyone else has the advantage, has more talent, has more skill, has more resources, has more credibility, has a bigger network — and maybe they do. And we have all heard the voices of fear, doubt, and insecurity telling us not to even try to compete.
We might not be able to control our competition, shift the market, or define price points, but what each of us can do is be relentless, and our teams need to see that within us. It will inspire, it will motivate, it will engage those around us to work towards a goal that maybe they never thought possible, and it begins with each one of us stepping outside our comfort zone and when we know what needs to be done, letting nothing stand in our way.
Ask yourself: Have you defined exactly what it is that you, and only you, need to be doing each day and are you putting everything you have into making it happen?
If you could have anything, what would it be? No really, think bigger. If someone came to you and said the world is all yours and you can have anything in it — all you have to do is ask — what would it be? Would it be all the money you could imagine, or perhaps it would be unending power and control?
There was a Bible figure who actually faced this decision and came up with a very different answer than what you might expect. The story of Solomon begins with him already reigning as a king of a powerful nation. He seems to have a life that many of us see as a dream come true. But has a spiritual encounter where God offers him anything, holding nothing back — all Solomon has to do is choose. What ultimate wish does Solomon pick? He chooses — wait for it — wisdom. What? Why in the world, if given the opportunity to have literally anything, would that be what Solomon picked?
As surprising as it might seem, I believe his decision was shaped by great leadership and it was driven by his humility. He understood that our power and position will never outpace our need to learn.
We can often view a move into management, executive leadership, ownership, or becoming a team leader as a point of arrival, when the opposite is true. The transition to a new role must be seen as a starting line for us to pursue a deeper level of knowledge and understanding of our particular skill set and capacity. Those we are charged to lead deserve more from us than watching us rest on our current capabilities and prior accolades.
If you are not learning, if you are not growing, if you are not expanding your capacity, then you simply are not the leader you need to be and you are inhibiting both yourself and those who follow you from realizing their full potential. Be humble, start learning.
Ask yourself: What are you actively learning today and how will you share that with those who are following your leadership?
Something had gone terribly wrong, this wasn’t supposed to happen, everything was going so well and now, all of a sudden, a more ominous darkness than ever imagined was poised to threaten not only her family but her entire nationality through systematic extermination. Esther had risen to fame, prominence, and the position of queen by becoming the wife of the most powerful man in the ancient world and she should have been living a life of luxury.
Instead, Esther found herself embroiled in a violent conspiracy with its eyes set on destroying everything she loved. Rather than recoil in terror, withdraw from the situation to focus on protecting herself, or run from the challenge of those turned against her, she quite literally embraced the risk and boldly stood up, walked towards the danger, and gave voice to those who could not speak for themselves.
Esther’s legacy is an enduring example of the courageous leadership that is so often demanded when circumstances, powers, and authorities take a position of oppression against the most vulnerable of this world. This example is one that all those who step into the position of leading others must be willing to take, realizing that you will never regret risking yourself for the benefit of others.
We will probably never face obstacles quite so dramatic in the companies and organizations we serve, but no matter what we do, there will always be those who need us to rise up, step forward, and speak out on their behalf. This might be as simple as going to bat for your sales team when they need more support, designing a workspace that costs more but offers greater protection to your workers, or as an owner potentially paying yourself less when those on your staff need more.
Whatever the circumstances or situation, it takes a courageous leader to make the tough calls, but looking back on those decisions, we can rest assured that we will never regret the risks we took to better serve those we are privileged to lead.
Ask yourself: Are you actively taking risks that will make a lasting and positive difference in the lives of those you serve?
At the end of a long day, week, project, or sales cycle we can easily feel like we just want to be left alone, take a break, or need some time to spend by ourselves. This makes perfect sense after meeting deadlines, reviewing metrics, a pouring our energy into getting something over the last hurdle at to the finish line.
Time after time it seemed like Jesus dealt with this exact same scenario: while he might not have had to hit a sales quota, improve customer satisfaction scores, or post positive quarterly results for the board of directors to review, he was under constant scrutiny and infinite demand as he interacted with those who loved him as well as those who hated him.
And yet in the midst of all the chaos that surrounded his life, it was when he stopped everything, saw the true needs of those he interacted with, and willingly gave of himself to reach the most broken and forgotten, that he impacted the world forever. His compassionate leadership is a reminder to anyone, that our greatest influence exists where we meet the greatest need.
For any and all leaders, we must constantly push ourselves to evaluate the work we do in light of the purpose we serve and the people we lead. Do we know the needs of those around us, including our customers and our employees? Are we working hard to learn what is motivating them and who is engaging them? Can we articulate how their needs are best met and are we connecting them with something larger than themselves?
We can continuously seek and find satisfaction in accomplishment, financial stability, and prestige, but our greatest reward and satisfaction should be found in influencing others to become better and help them accomplish more than they ever thought possible.
Ask yourself: Who is in your sphere of influence, right now, that has a need you are able to meet?
APPLYING THESE QUALITIES
As you stop to consider your own leadership style and actions, where do you best connect with the examples given above? What “old school” ideas do you think would have the biggest impact on your modern leadership?
Are you a true visionary; tirelessly painting a picture of a world people cannot wait to see? Would those around you say you are relentless; when you know what needs to be done, you let nothing stand in your way to make it happen? Perhaps you are at a moment where the best way to lead is to be humble, understanding your position will never outpace your need to learn. Maybe it’s time for you to step forward and be courageous, accepting the reality that you will never regret the risks you take for the benefit of others. And finally, it might be time to accept the fact that one of the greatest leadership styles you can embrace is when you choose to be compassionate because your greatest influence exists where you meet the greatest need.
I think a challenge for all of us, in any type of leadership capacity, is answering the question: “What do those around me need most from me right now?” Thinking through this and being able to articulate a clear answer is a powerful guide to becoming the visionary, relentless, humble, courageous, and compassionate leader your business, your team, your referrals and your patients need.
This article originally appeared in the May 2018 issue of HME Business.