Great leaders are burdened by others. At first glance, that appears negative, but in fact it is positive. When it comes to people, great leaders have a sixth sense for others. They have an innate ability to read people, produce gut feelings, and just plain “get it” when it comes to people.
Here is the thing about these gifted leaders, they put the needs of others above their own. They place themselves second. In a world that continues to crave quality, human leadership, they are the nutrition we need to squelch that hunger. They are dynamic difference makers.
If we are being real, leading people is tough. It can be a burden within itself. My Paw Paw always told me that, “leading people is the most difficult thing you will ever do.” He was right, but it is also the most rewarding thing you can do. It is a burden worth carrying, all day, every day.
It Starts with a Burden
My friend Marlon Longacre has always said, “everything starts with a burden.” Anyone who has ever done anything great was first burdened by the cause they sought to serve. The burden of great leaders is to serve others.
My life has been shaped by leaders who chose to be burdened by others. I am grateful I had a front row seat to so many that showed me the way. My parents, teachers, coaches, pastors, public servants, business owners, and volunteers who have all helped mold my life of service to others. I was fortunate to be the “other” that they were burdened by. I was never an expense to these people, only an investment.
This week, we spend some time in reflection on what great leaders are burdened by when it comes to others. Here are five burdens that great leaders carry for their people.
Seek Joy Over Happiness
If you asked any leader, the happiness of their people is always at or near the top of the list. Great leaders seek joy, rather than happiness for their people. The difference you ask? Happiness is only temporary. It can come and go like a change in weather. Joy is rooted deep, it is sustainable. It weathers the storms of tough moments, days, and sometimes seasons. Happiness fluctuates like a thermometer, while joy remains steady like a thermostat.
When a leader wants their people to have joy, it creates a burden. One in which they will travel any distance for. It brings great satisfaction to leaders when their people have genuine joy in their lives. It fuels their tank for the trip to a greater destination.
Great leaders are typically further ahead in the journey than you are. They have more experience in their rear-view mirror than you have in the windshield. Most likely, a leader has walked in your shoes. The good, the bad, and the ugly. That is the definition of sympathy, when you know exactly what it is like to experience what someone else is walking through.
Great leaders use their experiences to connect with their people. Because they have walked through a circumstance and come out on the other side, they are equipped to help deliver people through those circumstances. Note that I did not say, save them from the circumstance, but to help deliver them through it. Wisdom is produced through that path.
Leaders tend to have a heart for those they see themselves in. Sympathy creates instant connection and produces relatability.
Maybe the leader hasn’t walked the same mile in your shoes and cannot sympathize with your circumstances. Great leaders have the ability to empathize though. Empathy is making every effort to understand a person’s circumstances short of living through them.
Leaders who can empathize start with listening. They don’t lead with advice or solutions. Great leaders are authentic listeners. Simon Sinek says, “listening is hearing what isn’t said.” Hearing what is and isn’t said is a trait of a leader willing to be burdened by the people they lead.
Great leaders carry the burden of growth for their people. They understand their awesome responsibility to better others and the world they live in. These leaders see more in their people than they see in themselves. They want to see you go places you never thought were attainable.
Whether it is personal or professional growth, great leaders want this for all their people. We must remember one thing though, growth isn’t always positional. It is natural to struggle with believing this when a leader does not elect to grow you positionally. When you do not get the spot on the team you desired.
Sometimes a leader grows you where you are planted. A plant may need some extra time to mature and develop in its existing conditions before it can be transplanted. If it is transplanted too early, it may not succeed in its new environment. Great leaders desire for people to grow, period.
Have a Presence
Have you ever been around those people that just have a presence about them? You can just simply be in their presence and be better for it? Everything suddenly seems right in the world? It is almost a superpower in a way. This presence is generated through their burden for others. A burden for the people they influence to be more and do more.
These are also the people that walk in when everyone else walks out. When your world falls apart. Even if you have given them every reason not to, they continue to walk through the doorway. Their presence says nothing outward, but means everything inward. Very similar to the experience of Visitation Lines, it’s the people that just show up, give you a hug, and tell you they love you. Nothing more, nothing less. Presence trumps any word in the dictionary.
I believe in upward evaluations. We can evaluate top down all day long, but the most valuable information in an organization comes upward. For those that directly report to me, I spend time with those that they lead. The most critical question that I ask during the process is, “do you feel that they love and care for you personally and professionally?”
The best leaders in our organization get a resounding yes! Yes, in that they feel their leader wants them to have joy, are sympathetic towards them, empathetic when they cannot be sympathetic, that their growth matters, and that they have an influential presence in their lives.
You could throw out the rest of the entire evaluation in my book. Creating a culture where an employee feels loved and cared for is critical. Cultures like this are created by leaders who choose to be burdened by others. Are you burdened by others?