First a quote: “Leave this world a little better than you found it.” – Robert Baden-Powell, Founder of the Scout Movement
As a young man, I enjoyed being a boy scout, and years later, being a scout leader for a short period of time. My favorite part of scouting was the camping events. I loved everything about camping in the great outdoors. (OK, maybe not everything, I didn’t think much of mosquitoes or latrines.) I certainly loved being with family/friends around a campfire, fresh air, starlit skies, and the smell of bacon frying over a warm fire on cool mountain mornings. Great memories for me!
I also remember breaking down camp and packing up for the journey home. Before we could leave our campsite, we were taught to “police” the area to make sure the campsite was clean and litter free. (As an aside, we were also taught to take only photographs and leave only footprints.)
Here are two important take-aways from this week’s MMM missive; 1) as scouts, we were taught to leave our campsite in better condition than we found it; and 2) sometimes, this meant picking up trash that wasn’t ours, and/or cleaning up messes that were created, and abandoned, by someone else.
Isn’t that what great leaders do as well?
I submit the best leaders, when departing, leave their team, department, function, and/or their business, in better condition and more prepared for success than before they arrived. This can mean a whole variety of things. For instance, employees are better trained, processes are cleaned up or enhanced, the culture is strengthened, communication and trust levels are improved, results are positive and growing. You get the idea, things are better!
A reality in life is that frequently, as leaders, we will be expected to clean up messes that were created and left behind by others. Is that fair? No, but it is the price of being a leader. Our scout leaders told us to quit complaining and be proud of doing the right thing. People will notice. People did. Felt good.
Following are several questions for you to ponder this week. If you were to be promoted next week, or be tragically hit by a speeding truck and unable to resume work:
- Are your people better positioned for success than before you arrived? Is your team stronger and more capable? If you are a strong leader, it is possible your team has become too dependent upon you to lead the way?
- What messes have you inherited which may still need to be cleaned up? What actions have you taken, what progress have you made?
- What messes would you be leaving behind if you were to depart today and not return? The leaders I respect cleaned up their own messes, or any messes created on their watch, before they departed.
- What is your strategy to make sure the “campsite” you leave behind is in better condition than when you arrived? Will your legacy be a better world, or a mess that someone else will need to clean up?
How will you lead, or live, differently, or better, this week?
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Have a great week!
“Expanding Your Capacity for Success”