Leaders are losers. Odd concept, huh? While it seems contrary to everything that we are taught about leadership, it’s true. Leaders are fully capable of being losers. In fact, it is a requirement of leadership.
It is worth noting that this post is being written by one of the most competitive people you will ever meet. I like to win, hate to lose, always have. All my life I have participated in sports as a player or a coach. Never, have I ever, wanted to be labeled a loser, until now. So…bear with me for a minute, as I attempt to make sense of this concept!
Webster’s Dictionary defines a loser as, “a person or thing that loses, especially consistently.” Given this definition combined with the concept that leaders are losers, let’s answer the following question:
What must we consistently be prepared to lose at in order to lead well?
Let’s dive into five answers to this question:
1. Consistently Lose to Self
Leaders aspire to grow. The more you grow, the more you win. More winning equates to the risk for elevated ego. We see it daily in the world of sports. Pounding of chests celebrating individual accomplishments at the expense of team success. Ego leads to a greater ME and a lesser WE.
For leaders to sustain growth, it is necessary to lose to self. When leaders lose to self, others win. Losing is a humbling process. C.S. Lewis once said, “humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.” Humility leads to a greater WE and a lesser ME.
2. Consistently Lose Possessive Vocabulary
Possessive vocabulary is a pet peeve of mine, it screams insecurity. Spend any amount of time listening to a “winner” who thinks more of themselves than they should. You will hear an excessive use of “I, me, and my.” The next time you get Stuck listening to someone tell you how great they are, just keep a tally at the top of your notes of the use of these three words!
Great leaders consistently lose possessive vocabulary. A simple change in our vocabulary can make all the difference in the world. The use of, “we, our, and us” magnifies others. It projects security in our leadership abilities. More importantly, it redistributes the credit for success where it belongs, the team.
3. Consistently Lose Power and Authority
Power and authority are potential side effects of leadership growth. Power and authority are dangerous tools that most of us are not prepared to handle. Let’s use a chainsaw for example. It’s an effective tool to get the job done, but extremely dangerous in the wrong hands. That goes the same for power and authority.
Great leaders wield influence, that trumps power and authority. Power and authority drives and pushes. Influence guides and inspires. It makes people want to come along with us on the journey. When we lose power and authority, we win people with influence.
4. Consistently Lose Status
A fatal trap that leaders can fall into is believing the lie that they need to be the smartest person in the room. People who hold a position of influence who subscribe to this theory are the lids to their organizations. They are winners in their own minds.
Leaders who consistently lose status know this…they do not need to be the smartest person in the room for the organization to be successful. The better and brighter the people they surround themselves with, the higher the ceiling for everyone involved, including the leader.
5. Consistently Lose the Limelight
Leadership thrusts us into the limelight. A quick Google search produces a quick definition of limelight, “the focus of public attention.” It is a natural place for the leader to appear. Some people relish those moments, the rest are leaders.
Great leaders choose to step back and let others stand out. They let the light shine on others in moments of celebration and recognition. Their preference is to deflect the limelight to those that matter, the people they lead. The light shines the brightest for the leader when they stand in the shadows of others.
Earlier in the post I told you that I love to win and hate losing. Let me contradict myself for a moment, while I love to win, I have learned way more through the process of losing. As a player, coach, father, husband, friend, and leader. I am far from perfect in any of these categories, but I am better than where I started because of losing.
We rarely think about the value of losing in leadership. Ultimately, the more the leader loses, the more the people they lead gain. That’s a good enough reason to lose. Great leaders are losers.