Recently I was returning to San Francisco from Washington DC and was waiting in the airport terminal with time to kill. Too tired to read and saving my music for the plane, I sat and watched people come and go.
You never know when inspiration or something of interest will come your way. Indeed as I sat there waiting for my flight, a leadership lesson walked over and sat next to me – two well dressed business executives deep in conversation.
Business Guy #1: “Let’s see how long she lasts. I am not used to people having their own ideas. Mine work quite well. I do not think she will fit in.”
Business Guy #2: “Yes, I agree. She asks a lot of questions. I have my own problems with staff too. I need to get back.”
They both may run a successful business, but as I overheard their conversation (hey, I was sitting right next to them), I could only think of three words:
Arrogance. Control. Fear.
I was an eager student interested in their expression of leadership. Their outlook and behavior may have worked in the past. Yet, I doubt it will continue to work going forward. I almost engaged them in a conversation at that point. I wanted to bring my observation to the surface. Their reaction would have been priceless!
Yet, they got up and walked away to make separate phone calls. No doubt, more checks on the office too far away from their immediate control.
Then a funny thing happened.
Another business executive walked over and took the same space next to me. He was also well dressed in a suit and had the air of an experienced and successful business person much like my previous visitors. He was traveling with two coworkers who appeared junior to him. Both also well dressed and held a quiet confidence. These three appeared to be at the top of their game.
This new leader began to speak to his coworkers … and to me, ever the student. Their conversation was balanced and friendly. The leader asked about family and plans for the upcoming week. He showed interest in their lives.
When asked about his own plans, the senior leader mentioned he was going to fill in for a touring band the next night who needed a harmonica player (you can not make this stuff up). I admit, from his appearance, I did not picture him on stage with a rock band, playing a mean harmonica. Yet, that was waiting for him once back in San Francisco. Cool.
Three new words came to me as I listened and learned:
Balance. Interest. Joy.
We choose how we lead. We choose how we work with people. We choose to move together or not. Clearly I find it more rewarding and sustainable for a leader to maintain balance, be curious with genuine interest, and live with joy.
As we all boarded the plane for our cross-country trip, I silently wished each of these business people well and thanked them for today’s lesson on how I choose to lead.