One of my favorite ways to start speaking engagements is to ask the audience to go through a series of reflection questions with me. I ask them to close their eyes and consider the answers to the following questions:
What’s your favorite smell?
Where is your happy place?
How do you prefer to relax?
What’s your favorite food?
Which is the best type of music?
Then, I tell them I have one more question to ask.
Who is the best leader you know personally? And why?
After allowing them a moment to think, I take a survey of their answers. I invite them to raise their hand if they settled on a person in their family, a former boss or colleague, a religious leader, or a friend. I normally get a few hands raised for each category. Then I ask how many of the attendees chose themselves. I normally get several chuckles and very few hands. Then I challenge the group and ask “Why not?” Answers normally range from individuals claiming they’re too experienced to be the best leader they know to that it’s conceited to call themselves the best to that his or her impact is not extensive enough.
As a follow up, I ask the attendees if they struggled with selecting just one person to label the best. Most of the group normally says yes. When I ask why, they share that it’s hard because Mom leads well in one way and his or her pastor leads well in a different way. And as great as both of them are, they each have weaknesses as well.
This is the answer I’m hoping for. I share with the group that the difficulty in selecting one person to be the best leader they know is the result of each of us being strong in some places and weaker in others. However, we’re each in a unique position to see the strengths of those around us and integrate them all into our personal style. I can embrace Mom’s focus on putting others first and try to be more mindful about finishing projects I start. I can adopt my pastor’s public speaking style without rambling on occasionally. In essence, while developing my leadership character, I can cherry pick the best of those around me. And if I do that well, it should make me the best.
Who is the best leader you know personally? And why? How have you worked to integrate his or her strengths into the way you lead every day?
Share your thoughts in the comments below.