In gym class competitions, my skill level ranged from average to downright terrible. I was, for most of my life, among the last-picked students when selecting teams for any sport. Soccer, basketball, tennis, football, softball -ahhh, softball. This was my sport on an unforgettable day in ninth grade.
For one spectacular thirty-minute class period, I somehow channeled Babe Ruth and destroyed every pitch that came my way. It was remarkable. I was remarkable. I mattered because I produced runs. My hits drove in runners, and we wrecked the other team. The pats on the back and free-flowing accolades were water to my thirsty soul. But the best was yet to come - the next day, when I was made to feel like I actually belonged to something. We lined up as usual in the grass beside the baseball diamond. Usually, I would hang in the back, trying not to care, but this time - I was picked...first. By Ricky. An upperclassman. He had seen my monstrous slugging percentage the day before.
Two things were true at that moment in my life when I was fifteen years old. The reason I felt so great was that I brought value to the team and knew my leader and teammates wanted me around.
I don’t share that story to point out Ricky’s leadership, but more to prove to you that what he did made me feel like I mattered and belonged. I still remember his name all these years. Organizing a group of people to win a softball game or complete a task is not easy in and of itself. However, next-level leadership is when you not only succeed at the task, but build a bridge of respect between you and your followers. If you consistently lead them into failing situations, they’ll stop following you. But If you consistently lead them without valuing and knowing them, they’ll stop respectingyou or never actually respect you in the first place.
The best leaders know how to give those that follow them what they need. They know how to make them feel that they matter and belong. When leaders meet these two needs for their followers, they will form a faithful and dedicated team.
Leadership is not about you as much as it’s about them.