We are living in difficult times. A lot of reflection on what is right and what is wrong is happening at the moment. We have started questioning ourselves about our ways and what we can do better. During my high school years, I was a very enthusiastic basketball player. By enthusiastic I mean that I played every day but was never a good player. I struggled most of the time, so I spent most of my basketball ‘career’ in fixing mode. My coach constantly told me “when things are not going well, go back to the basics and you will find the solution”. A couple of months ago, I decided to go back to the basics and reflect on how I could add value to the people around me.
It was during a mentoring session that I had one of those “Aha! Moments”. My mentee asked me to help her work on her leadership skills so when the time comes for her to lead a team, she would be ready. I felt like that time when my son was 5 and asked me the meaning of life and I panicked and asked myself “Why me????”. Leadership is like parenthood, nothing makes you “ready”, you will still make mistakes, but challenging yourself to be a better person will definitely put yourself in a better position to tackle the challenges of becoming a leader.
The greatest leader I have known is my late mother Silvia. She was great because she was simple. She had one golden rule “treat others the way you want to be treated”. She had five sons, worked during the day and went to college at night so she couldn’t afford to not be pragmatic in her communication. All my lessons on how to be an adult were 100% aligned to her golden rule. Every time I messed up, she had this talent of relating my fault to not following the golden rule. So, in that moment of reflection, that powerful question during that mentoring session was triggered. I had a brainstorming session in my mind with my basketball coach and my mother and went back to the basics when I was 5 years old and the teacher would draw a smiley face on the back of my hand because I was a “good boy”, meant the world to me. Then I started growing up and everything started being graded in report cards, periodical evaluations and yearly appraisals where a number determined how good one was. We were told that you cannot give too much praise otherwise people will become lazy and stop improving. I supported this methodology, but when I look back, the leaders who brought out the best in me were the ones who praised good behaviours constantly.
So, my response to my mentee was that the best way to get ready for a leadership position was to internalize the habit of praising others. This way you will always be aware of what good looks like and praise it accordingly. Also, this habit will move one out of the egocentric zone that is becoming more popular with social media and the need for instant gratification. Bottom line, leadership is never about us, it is about the people around us. We all work hard for what we believe is important, but somehow, we have lost track of knowing what is important. It is our job as leaders to praise good behaviour and to be creative in doing it in such a special way that the praise can be the lighthouse that guides people around us to safety during a storm of confusion. Make your praise your masterpiece and spread the love. Welcome to the revolution!