Sometimes real world examples of leadership help us define it better. For that reason I often use stories to illustrate effective leadership when I work with leaders and managers on how to more effectively lead their teams to accomplish more. Recently in the news, I came across two stories that clearly illustrate different perspectives on how a leader should operate.
The first story was that of Kansas City Royals pitcher Gil Meche. In this day and age it can be tough to find sports figures who make decisions that can be used as examples of leadership but Gil did just that. He decided to retire from baseball due to an injury rather than stay on the team and collect the $12 Million salary that was due to him according to his contract, whether he played or not. Meche could have pitched from the bullpen or simply stayed on the bench and earned the money that was remaining on his contract but he chose to retire and save the team the money because he felt that he couldn’t contribute enough to the team to be worth that kind of salary.
Now I don’t know Meche or anything about what kind of person he is. But this was a decision to do what he believed to be in the best interest of others, even if it didn’t benefit him. That’s a decision that other sports figures, and young athletes could look to as a model. Here’s someone who put his character and his sense of decency above 12 million bucks. How many of us would have made the same decision?
In the same week I read a story about a US Congressman who is suing a congressional cafeteria for $150,000 for leaving an olive pit in his wrap almost three years ago. The suit states that he suffered “pain and loss of enjoyment” It appears the suit has been settled already and maybe there was some serious dental issues caused by the pit, who knows? The reality is though, that you are a US congressman and you really have to think long and hard about the message you send by suing the cafeteria in the building where you work. Especially when you have access to one of the best insurance plans available in the country as part of your benefit package.
I’m not condemning the congressman, nor am I suggesting that Gil Meche be given a parade. What I am saying is that when you contrast the two decisions, which person are you inclined to follow or look at as a role model?
Every day your employees, clients, peers and others will evaluate your decisions on the basis of their own perceptions. No one ever said leadership was easy. The good news is that if you look around, there are plenty of great examples out there on how to lead, and how not to.
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