We Don’t Always Choose Whom We Lead; But We Can Choose How We Behave

“Why did you get that dog anyway?” a friend asked some time ago as we were eating. We were both exasperated with Louie, who had finally settled down after letting her know he was not happy with her entering my home. “He’s so different from what you’ve been used to.” She was referring to my previous pets, two Bichons, and a Cocker Spaniel.

Good question, I thought to myself. Why did I adopt this seemingly docile pup who was anything but sweet and gentle? As I’m typing, he is trying to “bury” his chewy toy behind the sofa in the family room, and I have to shake my head and wonder. I’ve been accustomed to soft and fluffy, somewhat dainty little dogs. There is nothing soft and fluffy about Louie and certainly nothing dainty! And on days when the temperature is 5 degrees, and we have to “go” outside, I have to ask why?

Well, I love him, first and foremost. And I did choose him, and it was not an emotional decision. As he regally sat in his crate at the adopt-a-pet weekend, I noticed he had character and a presence. I knew he needed me…and I needed him. That’s not how we typically select our employees, but sometimes, when we accept a leadership position, there are people we lead whom we would like to help find other jobs. We shake our heads and wonder why on earth they are part of our team.

They may not act in familiar ways, they may seem a bit quirky, and there are probably days we wish they would resign. Then we start seeing signs of hope, we genuinely give affirmations, and suddenly, we see improvement—ever so slight—but it’s there. We notice their contributions to the team, and our one-on-one times are more fulfilling. We notice that they have hidden exceptional characteristics and potential, even though they lack what we believe they need in order to be an exceptional employee.

Just like Louie, some people we lead are diamonds in the rough. They appear very ordinary at first glance, and their true beauty as jewels is only realized through a very difficult process. A good leader is often faced with the dilemma of either taking time to invest in a person or deciding it’s time to let them go.

Every interaction we have with another human being has a purpose.

When I spend time with someone because our roles intertwine, I must look at how I can best invest in this person’s life. I am willing to invest in others who:

1. Have a sense of self-awareness and a personal vision.
2. Are open to and welcome feedback, coaching and mentoring.
3. Are committed to learning.
4. Are willing to take risks.
5. Possess self-management skills.
6. Show genuine interest in professional and personal growth.

As leaders, we must be willing to invest in others, especially those who differ from our expectations. Sometimes, we toss people aside because they don’t meet our needs or measure up to our standards. A good leader recognizes that some people are placed in our lives to refine us. Are we willing to give them our time and invest in them? I realize there are times we do need to help others find another job, but most times, it takes a refining process to bring out the best in others and ourselves.

Louie has come a long way since that conversation with my friend. He visits schools and shares the message of love, kindness, patience, and hope. I’ve spent time pouring into him because I saw his potential and personality, and I am the richer person for giving away my heart and my time!

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