There come times in a leader's life when against all odds, we must step out in courage to make a necessary shift or take a stand. And these moments change the course of our lives.
Does anything immediately come to mind for you?
When I first decided to leave public education to start my own business, I didn't know how I'd do it because I had zero business experience, but I knew how unhappy and unfulfilled I was. I wasn't allowed to challenge my students or give them the tools necessary to think for themselves. To make matters worse, my time was completely consumed with a career that no longer filled me.
My defining moment came the day I realized that my call was relegated to a mere job. It started one fall afternoon. I received an email requesting a meeting with my administrators to discuss an incident I'd had earlier that day in one of my classes during an open discussion around the literature we were reading. I tried to objectively balance a largely one sided conversation by playing devil's advocate so that my students had a fuller picture of the topic. Unfortunately, things went awry, and before I knew it, there were parents, administrators, and school counselors involved.
If you've ever been in the middle of an ugly situation where you knew you'd lost from the very beginning, you understand exactly how I was feeling. Palms sweating, dry mouth, and a knot in my stomach, I walked to the office. Without being asked my version of the story, my principal issued me a letter that spelled out in no uncertain terms the changes they needed to see immediately.
I finished out the year, but it was difficult not having the freedom to lead my students much like a father leads and guides his children in the ways they should go. I was simply exchanging my time for money, and therefore struggling heavily with a lack of motivation. To be completely honest, when I turned my keys in at the end of the year, I didn't think I'd ever find an organization that matched my values, let alone one that brought me higher. That, in essence, is why I put out into the open seas of entrepreneurship.
I still pinch myself when I think of the great honor it's been to serve as a member of John Maxwell's Team. Within a few months of ending my teaching career, I chose his program to get my certification as a coach, trainer, and speaker and gain the skills to build a successful business around them.
It's helped me to grow in areas that were holding me back from being an effective teacher and leader—areas I didn't recognize were problems that created some of the conflict around my defining moment that fall afternoon. It's also helped me to recognize the need for leaders in general to be developed in the areas of communication, leadership, equipping, attitude, and relationships because for the first time in my life, I've been led by the best of the best and given an effective model to follow for my own leadership. The truth of the matter is that there is seldom an instance in which only one party is to blame in a conflict. Relationships are made up of more than one person, and all parties need to be humble enough to take a look on the inside and be willing to take steps to first improve themselves before insisting on the others changing.
I'd like to share 5 decisions that came out of some of John Maxwell's most important defining moments. They hang in the boardroom of his company, each followed by a simple value statement, and serve as a constant reminder to the executive team that their vision and mission is transformation.
Leadership: "I will add value to leaders who will multiply value to others.”
Relationships: "I will live in such a way that those who are closest to me will love and respect me the most.”
Partnership: "I will first help others get what they need. Then they will help me get what I need.”
Significance (Ministry): "I will attempt things so big that if accomplished, only God will get the credit."
Personal Growth: "I will intentionally grow everyday and develop my strengths.”
I share these things with you for two reasons. First, so that you realize that if you're this type of person, there's hope. You are not alone. In fact, there are many, many leaders and business owners who are running their organizations with similar values all around the world. I know because I have worked with some of them. Second, I can't stress enough the importance of investing in yourself on a regular and consistent basis so that you are worthy of being followed as a leader.
Everyone wants to make a difference. What most fail to understand is that transformation first starts with you. To try and change the world before you change your world is like putting the cart before the horse. No matter where you're at in your journey as a leader, there will always be more room for growth. Don't give in to the temptation to coast.
Unemployed, my wife and I dropped thousands of dollars to improve ourselves in the first year of business. We needed training, but what we needed more was to be around people who were more successful than us and who could pull us up in our thinking and daily habits. That first year, we surrounded ourselves with the right people knowing that we are the sum average of the 5 people we spend the most time with. We also paid for our own coaches to help with self awareness and invested in personality reports like DISC because we recognized that we couldn't grow ourselves if we didn't know ourselves.
Although John's list is all about service to others, in order to serve to this capacity requires intentional deposits into ourselves each day. People of value can only become valuable by enriching themselves. Sometimes transition happens naturally. At other times, it's our job to usher in the change.
Don't hold the world back from what you carry!