This past weekend I attended the opening Little League game for a local team. It was only the first day of spring, miserable weather, and the plowed field was surrounded with piles of snow. The people in the bleachers were bundled up and cold. The players on the field were colder still. Yet, there was an aura of excitement for an activity that both the kids and parents were looking forward to after a long winter in the northeast.
The head coach spoke to the group before the game started. He emphasized that it was the first game of the season and that the goal was for the kids just to have fun and learn how to play as a team. But as the game progressed, this same coach continuously and publicly belittled and embarrassed one young player who wasn’t playing very well. Eventually, you could sense the discomfort of the parents and others who were watching. Some of the men tried to brush it off. Comments like, Well, that’s the way you learn,” and, “You have to tell them how to do it right,” were frequent. I kept thinking, what exactly was the coach telling, and, more importantly, what exactly was the player learning?
Most of us can readily call to mind a poor teacher, an overbearing coach, or an inept boss. It’s much harder to identify individuals with positive leadership traits. Take a moment to think about someone who has inspired you or who inspires you today. What makes them stand out? What qualities do good coaches, teachers, or bosses have in common?
Granted, they are expert at what they do and sure about what they know, and they are willing to pass on their knowledge and expertise to others. Their passion is easily recognizable. They encourage, inspire and support their students, or team, or employees. They may be competitive, but they aren’t in competition with those they are educating or coaching or supervising. Most importantly, they make others want to learn, to do better, to be better.
What would happen if each young person today had exposure to at least one outstanding teacher, one terrific coach, and one great boss. Would they excel at what they were passionate about, achieve at higher levels, perform better in school and in the workplace? Would they themselves learn to be leaders?
As you advance in your career, you may supervise interns, and eventually have employees reporting to you. You may also take on volunteer service in your community, working with kids of various ages. Or perhaps you have chosen a career in education or training. Whatever the leadership situation you find yourself in, remember that others, many of whom may be young and impressionable, could be watching you, looking up to you, perhaps wanting to be just like you. When they get older and someone asks them to name a person who positively inspired them as a child, young adult, or as a new professional, be sure your name comes readily to their mind. Be known for your leadership abilities, not your lack of them.
Photo Credit: Martha Soukup