The Spirit Of Leadership

I was fortunate to get to see the movie, “Rush: Cinema Strangiato 2019” last week in the theater. It showed all over the United States at basically the same time on Wednesday night. If you are a Rush fan, then you understand why this was a significant event. If you are not a Rush fan, I’m not really sure what to say. One of the people I went to the movie with didn’t even know who Rush was before a few weeks ago. We are trying to educate them, but it is slow going.

This is a band that has been recording and performing for 40 years. Rush is only three guys who are mega stars but who are still down to earth and genuine. They love their fans and they remain humble and approachable. The movie was a compilation of concert footage and interviews. One of the songs in the movie and also one of my favorites is “The Spirit of Radio.” In it, Geddy Lee sings:

All this machinery
Making modern music
Can still be open-hearted
Not so coldly charted
It’s really just a question
Of your honesty, yeah your honesty
One likes to believe
In the freedom of music
But glittering prizes
And endless compromises
Shatter the illusion
Of integrity, yeah

I’ll get back to that in a bit. If you’ve been playing along at home, you know that we went to the Global Leadership Summit a couple weeks ago. In his presentation, Patrick Lencioni talked about the motivation of leadership. He categorized leaders as either Responsibility Centered or Reward Centered, which may be a bit simplistic but is worth exploring. Lencioni opened his talk with this statement, “A lot fewer people should become leaders.”

That was a bit shocking coming from a keynote speaker during a global conference intended to encourage people to be leaders and lead well. As the talk progressed it became apparent that Lencioni wasn’t saying he thought there should be fewer leaders, rather he was saying that leaders with the wrong motivation maybe shouldn’t have become leaders in the first place.

If a leader is motivated by the tangible “rewards” of leadership, it leads to failures that impact everyone connected to that community. Reward Centered leaders fail to invest in the people around them, avoid doing the difficult work of managing their people well, generate a higher percentage of bad decisions due to their management style, and are poor team builders and communicators. Obviously we are painting with a broad brush here, but it holds true too often to ignore.

In “The Spirit of Radio” Lee tells us that the method of making music is not the problem. The heart is where magic happens. Honesty is at the center of “magic” music. Honest musicians can use modern “machinery” to make great music. Dishonest musicians make fake music regardless of their tools. This honesty, or integrity, is seriously challenged when there are prizes and compromises involved.

Apply this to leadership and the motivations of leaders.

When leaders are motivated by rewards, or what they get from being a leader, they are easily drawn away from the spirit of true leadership. Integrity is an illusion because what they get is more important than what they do to get it. These leaders fail to do the hardest parts of leading because the reward for that work is intangible. They want the credit for the success of the community to be theirs, so they are unwilling to push their people to the front where they might block the view. Their viewpoint tends to be shorter term also as their interest is in a quick return.

However, when leaders are motivated by their sense of responsibly for the people within the community they serve, they make magic happen regardless of the machinery. These leaders invest in their people and support them as they pursue their dreams. This leads to trust and loyalty that in turn provides the edge in tight situations. These leaders consider their position a sacred trust to be safe guarded and utilized for the good of the entire organization, not a platform for their own advancement. Because of this, they are quick to deflect the spotlight to others on the team, making sure they each get a chance to be in the limelight. Leaders motivated by responsibility typically are looking at the longer-term view to ensure they are positioning their people well, even after they are gone.

Motivation matters. If you are in a leadership position and you are motivated by what you think you will gain, maybe you should pick a different path. However, if you are a leader who is motivated by a sense of responsibility to enable those around you to achieve their dreams and be their very best, then you have the true spirit of leadership. You have and are the Kimray Way.