The release of this monthly leadership blog coincides with Black History Month 2021. Before I share a Black History moment, I want you to ponder some salient questions.
What is the mystique behind great leaders?
What sets great leaders apart?
What common challenges do all leaders face?
What common elements help leaders overcome their challenges?
While I have answers to these questions, I believe it is more impactful for you to consider your responses given your perspective. Then, as you continue to read, you may agree or disagree with mine and have even more to add.
As I look back over my corporate career, I have been blessed to interact with a variety of leaders in ways that have shaped me as I transitioned, dealt with those experiences, and traversed those environments. Some of these experiences and environments were not always positive, but they impacted me none the less. You might wonder how I can still see those who may have impacted me negatively as leaders. I explore that question in more detail in my book LEAD: A Guide To Fostering Perpetual Leadership but suffice it to say that neither the concept of leaders nor leadership, is directional. While many may desire to see leaders as positive persons who promote good, the fact of life is that not every leader or leadership regime positively impacts us.
"Continuous internal and external assessments will help you avoid the pitfalls of leadership and help you establish yourself and your leadership as being valid."
As you progress on your leadership journey, it is helpful to assess how you are impacting others under your leadership. For those still establishing your leadership presence and for those needing to make a turnaround, I want to share some leadership nuggets that might help you before things get tougher. First, ask yourself what kind of leader are you destined to be? How important is it for you to reach your goals and lead your followers positively? Internal questions are always good and necessary to stay on track because the stress of leadership can cause you to drift where you don’t want to go.
Continuous internal and external assessments will help you avoid the PITFALLS of leadership and help you establish yourself and your leadership as being VALID. So, what are some common PITFALLS of leadership?
Pain – You will have to put up with some difficulties to grow, so don’t try to avoid this.
Insincerity – Some followers and friends are simply transactional, so know why and be intentional about who is around you.
Time – There are never enough hours in a day to get it all done, so maximize the time you have.
Failure – This places you one step closer to success, so don’t give up.
Ambiguity – If the answers were obvious you wouldn’t be needed, so stay the course.
Loneliness – Sometimes it's only up to you, so be content with that.
Lack – You won’t have everything you need, so use what you have. It's enough!
Sacrifice – It is a guarantee that leadership costs something, so believe that it's worth it.
These eight PITFALLS can disrupt or derail a leader. Look back at any great leader you have studied, witnessed, or known. When you do, I am confident you will learn of times some or all eight of these were encountered during their journey.
"Valid leaders constantly asses how they are impacting others."
As powerful as the PITFALLS can be, they are no match for the five characteristics of VALID leadership. These five characteristics will keep you humble and open and will keep your team encouraged. Great leadership requires:
Vision – Without it, the people and the ideas perish.
Authenticity – All duplicates are eventually identifiable, so don’t be fake; others will see it in you before you realize it.
Listening – Many, and perhaps most, great ideas will come from others around you, so honor their voices.
Innovation – “When you can do the common things in life in an uncommon way, you will command the attention of the world.” (George Washington Carver) Get out of the box!
Desire – You must have a burning imperative that can’t be quenched by failure or the prevalence of mediocrity.
Remember not to associate one's position with validity. You can have a position of leadership and not be a VALID leader. VALID leaders constantly assess how they are impacting others.
In honor of Black History Month 2021, I want to recognize a leader whom I had the privilege of watching grow into leadership. This person is a trailblazer who was not satisfied with being like everyone else; a leader who faced PITFALLS from within and from the outside. That leader is my sister, Olivia Allen Chaney, MD.
Recently, Olivia was recognized in our home town for 40+ years of medical service to our community, but that is just the glory, not the full story. Achieving those 40+ years, involved being the first Black Pediatrician in our Southern home town. I emphasize Southern because, while she received an awesome medical education in a school where many looked like her, she was returning to practice medicine in a city not inclined to accept her professionally. Yet, she knew deep down inside that she would change her home town.
She had a vision for care that was unmatched by many. What could she have seen? Imagine how she saw young Black children realizing that they could one day grow up to be a doctor… a doctor who knew their names, a doctor who lived in their community, a doctor who went to their church, a doctor who didn’t require an appointment to stop in and say hello… and this doctor was not white or male. This doctor was a card-carrying Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority sista’ who graduated from the Howard University College of Medicine (shout out to the new U.S. Vice-President) and devoted her life to caring for every child, just like they were her own.
I remember a time when I returned home from college after completing a study in queuing theory, and she allowed me to study her patient management system. After my review, I gladly showed her all the flaws in the queuing process used in her waiting room that caused her to see fewer patients than possible. She laughed and reminded me that she never planned to be rich; she had a burning desire to give children who looked like us better care than they would get anywhere else. She was undaunted by the challenges she had to endure as a black female with medical privileges in the local hospitals. She dealt with prejudice and bias in the hospitals and always had to prove and re-prove herself to others. While some physicians might have been mediocre, she had to always be excellent and smile about it… while remaining authentic and innovative in her approach so as not to bruise the egos of her distractors. She took time to talk with the children, not just the parents, to listen to their perspective on what was going on with their health and life. She had to spend many years in grade school, college, and medical school seeking the vision that would allow her to return home and provide competent and compassionate care.
"Be valid and don't give in to pitfalls."
While there were many other leaders I could have honored and mentioned for this blog., I wanted to help you see a leader who stood the test of time and inspired me personally to remain a VALID leader while dealing with the PITFALLS in my own leadership experiences.
Leaders, answer the call you have conceptualized from within. Be VALID, and don't give in to the PITFALLS. This is a secret behind every great leader. Now, go forth and #LEADPerpetually.