In my day-to-day work as managing editor of one of the biggest accounting websites out there, and given my background in business management, I’ve read a lot of articles about good leaders. Heck, I’ve read a lot of articles about leadership in general.
I’m sure you’ve read them too — how to be a good leader, how to get people below you to do stuff for you, how to not be a leader people hate, blah blah blah — and if you’re anything like me, you’re a little tired of these tips on leadership that should, in fact, be titled “How To Not Suck At Life and Be a Better Human Being In General.” At the core of these articles, well-intentioned as they may be, is this idea that in order to lead, you need to be a certain kind of person. Not Type A, not particularly intelligent, not even likable. You just have to be a decent person. A decent person having a grand old time doing what you’re doing, whatever that might be.
I’ve always been the type to march to the beat of my own drummer, and while my adolescent drummer may have been more interested in having fun than buckling down and getting to business, in my professional life I have found the easiest way to get people on board with whatever crazy idea I may have is by example. See me over here having a great old time? See how I’m bringing in new clients because they want to have a great old time too? Maybe you should join me!
I’ve found that by approaching leadership in this way, it’s not hard to get people to want to get in on that action, be it the people you are leading, or clients, or the cohorts you meet through networking.
Let’s look at it in a different way. Remember that kid in elementary school (perhaps you, like me, were that kid) who could happily play with a ball or even a wad of paper all by himself and seem completely content doing so?
There are kids who will laugh at him (“What a weirdo! Who plays with paper? LOSER!”), and there are kids who will stare and shake their heads, but there are also kids who will look at that kid, happily rolling a piece of balled-up paper across the floor, and want to join him. Why? Because somehow, he is having the time of his life with a stupid piece of paper.
Leadership is like that. People don’t have to understand why you enjoy a piece of balled-up paper, and it isn’t your job to explain it.
As a leader, though, it is your job to show them how much fun a stupid piece of paper can be.