Study leadership theory wherever you find it. Take pride in all we do…and do it well. Recognize those who do mundane tasks for your team. And yes, sometimes just dance like no one is watching…. And in fact, no one is really watching because they are all texting or tweeting on their smart phones.
As an old timer, gray beard, the study of leadership is more an avocation than a vocation. I tend to cheer my colleagues on from the sidelines these days. But I continue to be an avid student of leadership and management. I try to read broadly about leadership theory, and to follow trends in management. But as an observer of life, with some 60 trips around the sun I am often inspired by different people, different points of view. So I offer a Parrothead’s View of Leadership. For those uninitiated, Parrotheads are devout followers of the music of singer, songwriter and story-teller Jimmy Buffet.
This weekend, I got a chance to hear singer songwriter Mac McAnally, a long time collaborator with Jimmy Buffet and an esteemed member of Jimmy’s Corral Reefer Band. Mac played a song he wrote, but made famous by Buffet called simply, “Its My Job.” In the song Mac talks about a street sweeper who happily cleans the street, taking pleasure from simply doing a menial job well. It is an upbeat tune, pleasant in both music and lyrics.
Amidst the dancing and clapping over this song, I found a powerful message. In our daily lives we are all faced with challenges. Senior leaders and CEO’s have important jobs…. they must be strategic thinkers and make major decisions involving billions of dollars. For a military leaders decisions may affect lives or the outcome of battles.
But all of us face mundane tasks as well. Executive assistants, gatekeepers, staff officers, and yes, even janitorial staffs serve us and our teams. It is a leader’s job to recognize that everyone plays a part, large or small in the success of our organization.
A key mentor of mine, Lt Gen IUSAF ret) Mike Wooley used to say, “When we see that airplane take off we need to recognize that every person on this base was responsible for running down that runway and pushing that plane off the ground.”
The best way to encourage your people to take pride in their jobs, is to take the time to recognize the importance of every job in your organization. A good team takes pride in all its tasks…large or small. In a sense, every job should be worthy work.
So leaders, here is your weekly charge! Take some time to sing off key and dance like no one is looking. Take your job seriously, however menial it might seem. But don’t take life too seriously for, as they say, none us get out of it alive anyway.