Here is just one of my personal leadership stories about the birth of my son...
"The doctor knelt down beside me and my two young boys and told me that my son that was just born was not going to live! I looked him right in the eye and told him that he would!
Below I have shared some of my life's stories that will make you laugh - motivate - and hopefully give you an understanding that leadership is not just found in a board room full of black suites and ties.
Over the years that I have spent in the Marine Corps - upper management of international companies - small businesses that my wife and I have owned - and most of all life - I continue to hear that you can be taught leadership.
I disagree - I believe that leadership is something that you are born with - and that is defined by the choices and actions you take in your life.
You see real leaders - make the right decisions without any regard for self - only that of others.
Choices as simple as - identifying that the cashier gave you too much change back - and you drive back across town to return it to them.
Or Choices as difficult and dramatic as - stopping at a tragic accident and getting the victims out of the smashed up car before another car comes over the hill in the middle of the night on a busy freeway and smashes into them again. There are many more details to this story.
Leadership skills can be taught and are also very important to your success - leadership skills such as - fact finding - understanding disciplinary action and how to apply it - delegation - managing change - conducting a fact finding investigation - and running a successful small business.
But leadership - like I said before - is something that you are born with. It can be refined - but you can't make a leader out of just anyone - just like you can't make a professional major league baseball pitcher out of just anyone - you must have the basics to start with.
A real leader will take responsibility for mistakes - will not run from a challenge - will make sacrifices for the benefit of others. We know who we're all talking about - people like school teachers that will make sure the poor kid in their class has food to eat - or school supplies - and they will take it out of their own back pocket. These are the real leaders.
This leadership story reinforces that determination is a huge factor in success. It also stresses that at times determination takes courage. The type of courage you don’t know you have until you are forced to discover it. I hope that you enjoy the story.
Part of the training I received in Marine Corps boot camp involved fighting another Marine with a pugil stick. Understand that the Marine you were matched up against wasn’t necessarily the same weight or height as you. In my case the Marine I was put up against looked like he carried around cars prior enlisting in the Marine Corps. He was big and strong and I was tall and skinny!
For those of you that do not know what pugil sticks are they are basically a completely padded club with two places in the middle to grasp your hands onto. When I went to boot camp back in 1975 the padded portion was not all that padded. We were also allowed to wear a football helmet with a face guard. Again, the football helmet we wore looked nothing like the football helmets you see today.
I began by telling you that this leadership story was about determination. Determination can be motivated by many things such as pride, shame, love, and in my case all out fear of getting my head taken off by the giant that was coming at me with the full intent of doing so. Never underestimate the power of fear if used correctly.
Prior to being sent into the circle of what I was sure would be certain defeat and a whole lot of pain the Drill Instructor was providing me with well meaning guidance. His carefully chosen words pierced through me like a knife. I believe they were something like this, “If you don’t win I will make you pay!” I’m sure he must have given me much more instruction but that is all that stuck in my mind. The bad news was that I knew the giant Marine on the other side was receiving the same exact guidance from the Drill Instructor sending him in.
As the time was rapidly approaching that I would be sent into battle against what must have been the biggest Marine I had ever seen I was trying to recall the combat training we had just received. Was it stabbing thrusts then cross cuts or cross cuts then stabbing thrusts? Was I supposed to charge him or wait for him to charge me? Yes, I was in big trouble.
As leadership stories go this one has a moral to it and that is that one should never under estimate their desire to survive when pushed to their limits. I have no problem telling anyone that I was afraid. I know that Marines are not supposed to be afraid, but I was afraid. Knowing that I would be taking hits to my head and body that would surely cause me great pain, and maybe worse knock me completely unconscious had me very afraid.
The time had come. The Drill Instructor put his hand on my back and pushed me very hard toward the center of the circle. I believe he sent me off with those same words of comfort he barked out earlier, “If you don’t kick his butt I will kick yours!”
As I charged into the center of the circle I forgot everything I was taught and instinct took over. I let out an earth shattering battle cry from the deepest most inner parts of my gut. I ran toward him as fast as I possibly could, trying to surprise him since everyone else entered cautiously. Instead of swinging or thrusting my pugil stick I just held it diagonal across my chest and slammed into him causing him to fall backward onto the ground. As he hit the ground I just began swinging my pugil stick and striking him in the head as many times as I possibly could.
After several strikes to the head a Drill Instructor grabbed me and pulled me off of him. I had done it! I had beaten the giant of a Marine and I wasn’t even sure how I did it. I know it wasn’t the combat training since I had broken all the rules. I know it wasn’t because I was stronger, because I wasn’t even close to as strong as he was. It must have been the overwhelming fear of pain and losing that drove me to win. Fear is a huge motivator.
Leadership stories are a great way of teaching lessons that would be hard to do in any other way. Every leadership story has a point to be made and in this leadership story it was determination. Not necessarily the determination to win, but just to survive.
I've always been told that education is the key to success; and that's right, I suppose. Yet, if that really is the case then why is it that the least intelligent of my leadership group is always the most successful? I know that statement seems rather arrogant. Thing is, I know I'm smarter than Mr. X-Annoy Me because I have at least two more degrees - that's smarter!
So, why is Mr. X always far more successful? Why does he get the new Mercedes and me land up with the broken-down Mini Cooper? The answer lays in our leadership stories, or rather my lack of leadership stories. Truth is, climbing the corporate ladder doesn't always lie in IQ but rather in people skills.
I am an introvert, a person who stands in the back with the pointer and shy smile. Mr. X is a persuasive extrovert. He stands up front with a suave smile and big grin. He has leadership stories that will only boost his next conquest. I, unfortunately, have follower stories that only drown my chance of promotion.
It's ironic really. The only way to gain more leadership stories is by having those initial persuasive stories. The stories that tell of you making important decisions that influence the movement of the project. It doesn't matter if you are the brains behind the machine, that isn't stylish enough.
Here I am, hitting middle-age and still standing in the back with stories that pale in comparison to anyone else. I know I should step forward and take some initiative, but my smile isn't as dazzling as the others. My numbers may be better crunched, but who wants a story that involves accounts? Leadership stories should involve drinks after work instead of erasers flipping out of a jacket pocket.
Again - I will be adding additional short leadership stories from time to time - that I hope you enjoy.
Thank you and May God Bless You!