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Leadership Lessons—Choices

My son, Marcus, who is in the military, was shocked at the end of last year when he found the funding for his program was cut. Within days he went back to being a National Guard soldier one weekend per month instead of being full time with benefits.

His wife is a stay-at-home mom. Their girls are 3 years old and 18 months. When this happened I told him not to worry that we have a home, room for family and are glad to have them stay with us for a while. We looked forward to seeing the granddaughters as they lived in Ohio previously and we didn’t see them very often.

Marcus took a part time job as a security guard at an answering service not far from the house while he looked for a full-time opportunity. The other night he came home and told me about one of the young women who worked there. She had shaved half of her head. Her face and the shaved part of her head were covered with tattoos.

We talked about the type of jobs she would be able to get in her life. Probably nothing dealing with a customer (except a tattoo parlor). Not a fast food place. Probably a factory position or a job where she wasn’t dealing with the public.

She might be a great young lady but has made a choice in life that would limit her employment possibilities for the rest of her life.

After I said those words I thought about what I was saying. How many times does a leader make choices that will limit opportunities? I’ve worked with so-called leaders who are just jerks. Others who are not trustworthy. Still others who are so about themselves that employees don’t want to work with them—much less talk to them.

When I met Mary Kay, my wife, she taught me a word that has stuck with me for the past decade. That word is “choices.” We make choices the propel us or limit us. The fact of the matter is that each of us make them of our own free will.

Many choose not to have the work ethic necessary to be respected as a leader. Others won’t read books or listen to tapes to become better at what they do. Still others wake up with a bad attitude and choose to share that attitude the minute they get into the office.

I have to be honest and say in my own life I’ve made bad choices that limited my success. Maturity helped. Having good mentors helped tremendously. Now I need to focus on what I need to do better to maximize the leadership opportunities I’ve been given.

Good leaders look within before they look outside of themselves. Today, I’m very fortunate to work with leaders I not only like, but trust and respect and consider them mentors. They continually show me, by their actions—not their words—what good leadership is all about.

It is easy to look at someone all tatted up and say, “Wow—they sure are limiting their opportunities.” It is much harder to look in the mirror and ask, “Oh—Am l limiting my opportunities by (fill in the blank)?”

Have a good week and make good choices this week.

I’ll try and do the same.

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