Sunday, November 28, 2010

A leader’s willingness

At the end of a recent trip to India, I relived a valuable leadership lesson originally learned when I was fourteen years old.

We were having dinner and one of the team complemented me on the wide variety of skills I have picked up over the years working international aerospace projects. My comment back to him was that “it is less what I can do than it is what I am willing to do.” Many people know how to do certain tasks, but far less people willing to do the travel, work the time zone differences, read the cultural books, work the relationships and learn the customs. Coach Ed Noel taught me this lesson when I started playing organized sports. He told me there would always be players better than me, but none of them should put in more effort. Doing the extra sprints, foul shots, defensive drills, dribbling exercises and taking those darn offensive fouls will pay off in the end. It was all about what effort you are willing to put out.

People see what their leaders are willing to do. It makes a statement to the whole organization and those around it. Some call it being a role model, but I’m talking about something more extreme. It is the attitude that nothing is beneath you or beyond your reach. It is effort and being willing to do whatever it takes.

How you demonstrate your willingness to your teams?


NotesFromKris said...

Kudos. Excellent! Nothing is worse than working with someone who feels that the work being asked of them is beneath them...what message does that send to the rest of us doing 'what it takes' to get the job done efficiently and correctly (and with heart).

Nothing worse...other than being left with the last donut and it's jelly filled - yuck!

anil aggarwal said...

Really great thoughts........very true that it is the attitude that nothing is beneath you or beyond your reach. It is effort and being willing to do whatever it takes.......Certainly since then many people have taken a lot of those ideas and ridden them for years and years and made careers out of them. Part of that is willingness to do the kind of work that I wasn't willing to do. Get into a van and cover the country.
All of the great leaders have had one characteristic in common: it was the willingness to confront unequivocally the major anxiety of their people in their time. This, and not much else, is the essence of leadership.

Julie McManus said...

Wonderful topic. I demonstrate willingness by doing, being a positive role model, treating my team as equals and encouraging them to participate in decision making. I am not afraid to get my hands dirty. My team knows I have their back. Knowing this, the team gives 100% and delivers results.

Belinda Byfield said...

I love this topic. You should never ask your team to do anything that you haven't done yourself or aren't prepared to do yourself. A great mentor of mine told me that If I want my team to bleed that I need to hemorrhage . I know it's not the most glamorous of sayings but it gets the point across. People follow what you DO not what you SAY TO DO.

Ken Camarco said...


How true. Call it persistence or simply dedication to always working toward being the absolute best you can be.


Ping Zhuang, Ph.D, P.E said...

Fully agree! As a leader, passion for taking the team to be successful is very important. Try to show the team members not to do things mechanically, that is try to not treat a job just as a job, but showing williness to do well, to learn and as much so to enjoy, will really benefit everyone. I started my own firm in China in 2005 and have learned so much that is really beyond culture and andn what we learnt just in classrooms.....

Anna Smith said...

Hi John,

I would love to republish this post on our website. The copyright request email above, johnsreboot [at], does not seem to work (?). How can I go about getting permission to republish?

anna [at]

Tim Engel said...

Great stuff and I agree!! 2 years ago I shook off the dust of complacency and neglect and got on a track toward fitness. I also recalled a coach pushing me - "a little more push and you'll really be rolling, Tim!" Ah - but this advice was decades old...but was fresh to me now because I had ballooned to over 300 lbs. Now after losing 75 lbs I am "on track". It was the commitment to be disciplined both in the gym, on the bike, and at the dinner table. Working out with one of your old BBall teammates helps to keep me young! And career is the same - it's about attitude. Passion. Willing to do whatever it takes - and to be willing to serve.
Thanks for the blog, John!

John Bishop said...

Hello Anna Smith,

Thank you for contacting me on the copyright. I checked out your web and would be honored for LiaV to be referenced there with the appropriate links back to LiaV.

I fixed the copyright request link so you can find me.


John Bishop said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Slava said...

Great post! This is so true. It is very inspiring when people are willing to go above and beyond to accomplish something. I believe this is exactly what differentiates a true leader.
Best regards,

MAREK GUT said...

Always be positive like it anything can be resolved. Never show disrespect towards one another. Treat your work at any level as it is the most important job in the company. Always give 100 % and nothing less. If you do the best job someone will notice it and they will always think of you first when time comes to choose the best leader and team player.
I've been offered jobs before that required a great deal of travel time but I always said no just because of my lack of education background. Many companies just didn't offer much for educated quality engineer. Experience is just not enough.
I cannot imagine how you handle the stress and pressure.

Bob Dixon said...

John - I'm in 100% agreement with your comments - in my experience and what I try to focus on are the small things I might do for or with someone who works for me - it's being available to them - when it comes to leadership - yes the big things are important, but it's the small things we do as leaders that make a life long impression on the people who work for us, the people we work with and the places we've been.


Doug Anderson, LSSGB, CPM, PMP, MBA said...

Excellent discussion John. I have recently been reflecting on my organized sports coaches. Some of the things that were taught by them really stuck with me. In fact, my high school football coach is one of the top 3 role models of my life of 45 years. thanks for the reminder that ALL things matter. ALL people matter. ALL positions matter. Fearless leadership really starts with servanthood.

Frank Parda said...

Leading from the front, through words and direct action. Beinng accessible @ all times; giving them the ablity to reach out when needed

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