There he was, listening to ideas intently, collaborating with others, providing direction, organizing teams, and sharing knowledge, all of this while handing out hygiene packs at a homeless shelter in his community. This is the embodiment of a surf and turf leader: leading through service and influence. If you have been following this blog over the last couple of weeks on the road from Milk to Maturity, you may have been anticipating this phase. What is a high level leader and how do I get there? This question is asked by many leaders along the road. Many have asked in anticipation of learning how to skip some steps or phases and go right to the top. A Surf and Turf leader has not skipped any step and fully understands that it is the culmination of all of those steps that has brought them to this place of leadership. If you have not been reading along and have opened up right to this post we urge you to go back to phase one. It cannot be emphasized enough; all phases are building blocks.
During the phases of leadership a person is refined through the fiery trials that come along the road. Persevering through these challenges without giving up is the foundation for leadership growth and development. A Surf and Turf leader knows this and holds no judgement against others as they face their own individual challenges. Contrarily, the Surf and Turf leader listens, watches, and learns from others as they face their challenges. They know they have not yet themselves “arrived”, which is something a leader in the Meat and Potatoes phase might struggle with. This leader knows that life is a long journey of learning from others and making deposits of experience along the way.
In addition to listening and learning from others, the Surf and Turf leader understands the value of relationships and seeks diligently to influence outcomes through those relationship and refined communication skills. Relationship building and management is the most important skill a leader can grow. Understanding people, both individually and in groups, can have the greatest impact on your ability to succeed. Managing up, down, and out now takes up the majority of time for the Surf and Turf leader. These relationships, if managed in a healthy manner, can be the single difference between business success and failure. If to a child love is best expressed as time spent with them, then to a business, success is best expressed as the ability to manage relationships well.
Finally, Surf and Turf leaders understand that their character speaks far more loudly than their words. Without character, you will not gain trust. Without character you will not gain respect, and without character guilt and shame will keep you from fulfilling your destiny. Heavy and dramatic? Yes. Guilt and shame stem from poor behavior choices. What does that have to do with leadership? Everything. Your character is composed of the combination of your behaviors and beliefs. If you believe one person is better than the other, your behavior will reflect that in those relationships. If you believe you are not being treated fairly, your behavior will reflect that in a form a rebellion. If you believe one way, it will influence your behavior. Why this is important in leadership is because of the influence the leader has in their position. There is no greater influence you have as a leader than your behavior. How you model behavior in situations will be considered by every person you are leading. This is where it gets very personal because that behavior doesn’t have a 9 to 5 clock like your paycheck does. Behavior doesn’t understand a 40 hour work week. Have too many drinks on a weekend and get a DUI. As the rumors surface, watch respect melt. That didn’t happen at work, but it sure impacted your ability to lead. Does this phase require perfection then? No, of course not. The trait that will best guide your character and behaviors is humility. It is the distinguishing factor of a level five leader in Jim Collins’s book Good To Great. Humility will allow you to make mistakes, own up to them and change the behavior that got you in that mess. Humility draws people to you as they relate to your humanness, but behavior that reflects a belief that you are better than others, or untouchable, repels people from you. Humility, along with integrity and honesty, are your foundation if you are a leader who want to influence others and raise a generation of leaders who will use your ceiling as their ground floor.
IF YOU ARE IN THIS PHASE: Look for others who are both in this phase and in other phases and continue to learn from them and help them. Seek out the next generation of leaders and share your experience and wisdom and lead them to a place of belief in themselves that will remove all limits from what they think they can accomplish.
picture credit: columbusunderground.com