Leaders are the glue that hold things together. Often when developing a topic, I find something random and explore its application to leadership. This week…it’s glue.
Glue is a fundamental adhesive that we have learned to utilize since kindergarten. The creative possibilities were limitless then, with one critical exception, DO NOT EAT THE GLUE! We first learned to use it to produce visual masterpieces that would stand the test of time, stored away in our mothers’ treasure chest of memories forever. As we grew older, we found alternate uses that could fix things, build things, and bond things together.
Here are four things that glue has in common with leadership:
Fixes Broken Things
Ever knocked something glass or ceramic off a counter? Yeah…it breaks into pieces, and you feel bad, you are burdened to fix it. Broken things cause burdens. Glue fixes broken things. It fills a void that puts something broken back together.
I’m inclined to bet that no leader wakes up in the morning and says, “I hope something breaks today so I can have more burdens to add to my list.” The last thing we need in leadership is for just ONE more thing to go wrong. When things break in our world, it creates added burdens.
Things break in organizations and leaders fix them, it is what we do. The greatest burden to bear are the people we lead. When they break, the organization can break. Great leaders are empathetic. As leaders, we all have junk going on in our own lives that no one else sees. So do the people we lead. Great leaders sense brokenness in their people and are burdened to help them put the pieces back together. They fix broken things.
Bonds Different Things Together
The online description for Elmer’s Glue says it “bonds materials like paper, wood, fabric, and ceramics together.” There are a lot of different and diverse materials that glue can bond together.
Leadership offers the opportunity to take different types of people and bring them together as one operational unit. Dynamic organizations are diverse organizations, full of a variety of backgrounds, beliefs, and opinions. When the leader glues those unique pieces together, they create an unbreakable bond. Great leaders are like glue, they bond different things together.
It Takes Time
All glue takes some level of time to set up. It requires patience to wait the process out. In most cases, you must apply it, let it set, then come back to it later. When given adequate time, the adhesive is at its strongest. It functions as it was intended to. When rushed, the adhesive is weaker than intended.
Leadership is an art that requires time and a little patience. We are all in process. Too often, we are fixated on building the end product, that we rush the process. Sometimes we just have to SLOW our GROW! When leaders give themselves adequate time to properly grow, the end result is of the highest quality. To be a great leader, it simply takes time.
It Can Fail
Even the strongest of glues can fail. In addition to rushing the process, the bond can be weakened by overuse. The wear and tear can simply cause the glue to fail and render its essential function useless.
Fixing things, bonding things together, and exercising the patience required in our growth process can create wear and tear that weakens us. Leaders are expected to hold our organizations and the people we lead together. That pressure can test the strength and elasticity of the glue that holds US together.
One of the most comforting things I have ever heard as a leader is that, “Even A Superhero’s Cape Gets Tattered.” It is okay…it happens…we get tired…we get worn down. For me, it is all about the recognition that I am stretching myself past my limits. It’s recognizing that I need to go for a hike, workout, read a book, be with friends and family, or get some solitude. We must invest in ourselves, so we are not having to glue the pieces back together later.
Glue does not do well overused, neither do we. It can fail, we can fail.
Being the glue that holds organizations and its people together is an awesome responsibility. One that requires a level of love and care for something greater than you. It is not for the faint of heart.
Just like glue, leaders have qualities that bring things together, not tear them apart. It clings tight to keep things from falling apart. It holds together when things want to separate.
The world is full of people who can tear things apart, but it desperately needs quality leaders who keep things together. Leaders are the glue of quality organizations.