Early in my work with leaders, I worked hard to create the perfect strategy or to answer the question for them. I believed that was my job and my purpose. To be the answer man. Only to discover even if my strategies and answers had merit, I didn't personally carry the heart or driving passion of their work or organization. It's their vision, passion, purpose, or product - not mine.
In the beginning, I spent many hours of endless energy (that I'd love to have back as it would help with the grandchildren) and resources to find the understanding between their passion, vision, and my purpose for being with them.
This led me to see leaders as the driving force themselves, not my strategies or concepts. I became their connector to the answers. The facilitator brings new light by asking questions which opens the door for creative thinking and processing. This resulted in the solutions and strategies they carry within themselves being uncovered and applied. I learned to perceive the far better, more mind-blowing, life-altering question. With this and a little perseverance, you can lasso the moon!
BROADSIDED IN PITTSBURGH!
My first advising experience was in 1995. I was a musician, composer, and producer who thought little about what leaders did or wanted. Having grown up in a home of strong-willed leaders, I was uninterested. Nonetheless, I was broadsided in Pittsburgh while speaking on music.
During a lunch break, I was approached by a national leader of a large nonprofit organization. He asked if I could have lunch and talk with him about some needs they were facing.
WHAT!? I stood stunned. You have got to be kidding me. I decided to go because he offered to pull me away from an ever-growing line of questions, and he was paying for lunch.
We met with casual conversation throughout the meal, and then like an uncalculated load, he dumped all over me. His issues in leadership. His staffing problems. His fund-raising concerns. His home life. For twenty minutes, he delivered his message. It felt hopeless and angry. My first reaction was to drop something back on him and say, "Why are you doing this job?" But some wisdom grabbed my tongue and fought for control.
He wanted answers. He wanted strategies. He hoped he wasn't wasting his time and life for a cause with more than a paycheck at the end of the month. From my mouth poured wisdom I didn't know I carried. I found myself asking him questions that led him to uncover the answers in his mind and heart.
Me? I learned that day how very human leaders are. How vulnerable they are to the voices around them. How frontrunner leaders, even amid a strong and friendly team, sometimes have to stand alone. I learned that day that leaders fail regularly. That we apply tremendous pressure on leaders to be demigods. To pull off the miraculous.
I also learned that day that if that leader is a demigod, I will never work with them. They don't get it. At least not in my book.
Nearing three decades later, I continue meeting leaders throughout the faith, business, and government communities. Their needs haven't changed. We're still applying undo demigod status on our leaders. I have discovered that almost every leader has the answer in them. The way forward. The strategy. And if asked the right questions, they uncover the future. You have to ask new and unusual questions. The question that makes you think outside of your present box.