Leadership: Be a Good Human 

One of my former assistant coaches recently called to share a great story with me. As we talked about her story we discovered that it resonated with what we both believe about being a good leader.

My friend now works with aging adults, many of whom are struggling with memory loss. On this day she was at a gym working with a man who was well into his late 80’s. They were doing some exercises on a stationary bike when he shared that he needed to use the bathroom. As he got off the bike my friend noticed that this man was having a hard time balancing himself. Normally he uses a walker but he didn’t bring his walker on that day because he left it at a party over the weekend, but that’s a story for another day! 

As he struggled to find his balance my friend asked if he could use some help and he quickly replied, “yes.” So she put her arm around his waist and he put his arm around her shoulder. It might be helpful to mention that this man is well over 275 pounds and my friend, well, she is about half that size. She certainly couldn’t prevent him from falling but she knew that providing him with someone to lean on would be helpful.

When he came out of the locker room she noticed that he had changed from sweatpants to shorts and he asked for some help putting his shoes and socks back on. Now I don’t know about you, but sweaty gym feet are not one of my favorite things, but of course, my friend said she’d be glad to help him. She knelt down and proceeded to help with his shoes and socks. As they both stood up, my friend once again put her arm around him and he did the same as they made their way back to the stationary bike. 

When the workout was complete they needed to walk to the front of the building which was a long way for this man without his walker. So, my friend found a chair with wheels and she took it took him thinking he could use it as a substitute walker. To my friend’s surprise, the man was grinning ear to ear as he proudly sat down in the chair! My friend then had to push this man who was twice her size to the front of the building in the rolling chair! But hey, at least he made it there safely.

As she shared this story with me we discovered a great leadership lesson; the reality is she didn’t have to help him find his balance, or help him put on his shoes and socks, or push him in a chair through the entire gym! None of those tasks were in her job description. She did it because she saw a need and she chose to respond to that need. In fact, multiple times she saw something this man needed and every time she responded to those needs. As we talked that day she shared that she didn’t think of this as being a leader until after the fact. In the moment, she just did what she could do to help. I wish more people could understand that leadership isn’t about a title, it’s about being present for the needs of others. 

Leadership is ultimately a balance between being and doing. When we can be present with people and respond to their needs we are shifting into a healthy model of authentic leadership. The best leaders I know operate from this mindset 24 hours a day. They understand that people have needs AND they are always capable of responding to those needs. 

My challenge to you today; be present with people so you can see their needs and once you see their needs be brave enough to respond to those needs even if it isn’t in “your job description.”

I often say that leadership is a lot like being human and the world needs more good humans. How about we all just agree to be good humans today? 

I’m in. You? 

Molly Grisham, mollygrisham.com
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