I cannot get the letter “P” out of my mind. It has been bouncing around for months, and it continues to expand. More specifically, the letter “P” has formed an alliteration associated with words that describe my thinking about leadership. I have tried to figure out where it came from and for a time I thought it might have been tied to my mother’s reminder to “watch my ‘Ps’ and ‘Qs’” when in public.
But that is not it…It is more specific than that. Perhaps my mind is drawn to the art of alliteration, and I am stuck on words with the letter P. While “Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Pepper” has a ring to it, my words are different. The more I search, the more I find significance in the words and their tie to leadership.
The first word is Privilege
Leaders have privilege. It is not that they should be treated with higher privilege. They have a privileged perspective on what is going on around them. They have a vantage point that provides a better view of the action. Consider the Captain of a ship. They sit on the Bridge and survey they horizon as they guide the ship through the sea. The CEO receives financial, operational, and competitive updates as they work through the strategy and execution of the business plan. The shop foreman works hand-in-hand with their team as they make process improvements on a daily basis. It is not difficult to understand how a person in leadership has a unique and privileged perspective on what is happening around them.
Privilege in this context is easy to understand. However, that is not the “privilege” that comes to mind when I think about leadership. Leaders have the unique privilege to influence the behaviors and actions of other people. We all have it, but do we appreciate what that means? Whether you are leading a church, a brigade, a workforce, or your children, having the ability to influence another’s actions is an incredible privilege. Embracing that privilege will change the way you lead.
The second word is Pleasure
Authentic leadership should be accompanied by a sense of pleasure: the pleasure to work with others in a way that adds value to them, to the organization, and the greater mission. Good leaders tend to associate the privilege to work with others with a sense of joy. My mentor, Tom Kemp, used to describe the way he would wake up excited to go into the office. He would specifically tie that excitement to the opportunity to add value to his team as they worked towards a common goal.
The pleasure and joy described here come from a place of true humility. A place where those you lead are the highest priority, even higher priority than the mission itself. An understanding that your ability to add value to them will ultimately make EVERYTHING and EVERYONE better. It is in that place of humility and submission to others where leaders find pleasure.
The third word is Perseverance
Shakespeare said, “uneasy lies the head that wears the crown.” You may have heard it said, “Heavy is the head that wears the crown.” Leadership is not easy, and it rarely allows for the 9 to 5 workday. Leaders know the stakes, and the “buck stops with them.” They carry the burden of making their team and the organization successful. It keeps them up at night and can consume a lot of energy and even passion. There is no getting around the mental and emotional challenges that come with leadership. After all, it is a tremendous responsibility to influence another person’s actions.
It is when a leader is fueled and refueled by an appreciation of their privilege and the pleasure they take in pouring energy into making someone else successful. Adding value to another person’s professional and personal life is the reward that trumps the weight of the crown.
The last P is for Preference
Leaders prefer to wear the heavy crown, to stand in the gap where the buck stops, and to play their role in developing others. They are happy to stay out of the light so the light can shine brightly on their team. The mere reflection of that light is plenty for them. It is their appreciation of the real meaning of privilege and the pleasure derived from developing others that stirs their sense of preference.
John Maxwell wrote, “Leadership is not a position, it is a state of mind.” My challenge as a leader is to maintain a state of mind that embodies the four Ps. My challenge to you is to recognize your true Privilege. Take Pleasure and find joy in the opportunity to add value to another’s life. Dig in and Persevere when things are tough. Finally, wake up every day with a Preference to be there.