Leadership Lessons can come from unlikely places.
My neighborhood was the unlikely place I learned 10 valuable leadership lessons applying not only to business but life. Things aren’t going as I would like in my neighborhood. It’s a great location, with great people but it’s getting a little run down. It’s not as safe as it used to be. Like many other people who have volunteered their time for a cause like serving on an HOA Board, there’s a reason, and it’s not usually because everything in your neighborhood is perfect.
I am currently running for the HOA Board in my neighborhood. Do I want to? Honestly, no. Do I have to? Yes. And it’s because I learned a long time ago from one of the first bosses I ever had in the corporate world, that, “You can only bitch about something to the extent that you are willing to do something about it.”
They’re not the words to live by that might be expected but they have stuck with me for all of these years. Very few people have taken the time to learn this lesson. Yes, I just said that. It’s the perfect time to say it. Political season is gearing up and both parties are putting candidates forward and stating their case. People are very quick to criticize candidates and very few seem to appreciate what it took for that candidate to be willing to stand up for something or someone else. These are strong people. They’re leaders whether or not we agree with their agenda, mantra, or potential plan.
10 Leadership Lessons from my Neighborhood:
1) Taking a position is polarizing. Not everyone will like you. To do anything and move a cause or a community forward – you are going to polarize people. From a research perspective this means that people can either love you or hate you or be with you or without you – but there is very little middle ground. You will have fans in the neighborhood and people who don’t like you because they don’t agree with your agenda or are not willing to acknowledge the need for a change.
2) Campaigning is similar to advertising. People have to see and hear the same thing over and over again before they become aware of you, the problems, and the potential solutions.
3) The amount of effort required. It takes a lot to motivate someone to do ANYTHING. Getting votes in an election to elect volunteers is like moving a mountain. It has taken an email campaign, flyers, postcards, direct mail, and a new website; although, I have drawn the line at pay-per-click banner ads and search engine marketing (SEM).
4) There’s a lot of room at the top. Everyone has a problem and few have a solution. You may have heard this stated, “It’s lonely at the top.” The amount you are willing to do is a natural screener – most people will screen out due to the passion, conviction and consistent effort that is required.
5) It takes courage to speak up. You must reward those who speak up even if they are only speaking to complain about everything that is wrong. Even when people are mad – I am becoming grateful. I had to get mad to decide to do something that would make a difference in my neighborhood.
6) How to listen. I reward anyone who is willing to use their voice by listening to every word they have to say. People respond when they are truly heard.
7) How to articulate a vision. People will rally around a Leader in action who is providing clear, consistent direction. If you can articulate your vision that’s the point others will get on board and help you.
8) Allow others to inspire you. Just when you think that hard work won’t make a difference – one of your neighbors will inspire you. Suddenly you will see someone act – they might finally buy a lawnmower or paint a home that hasn’t been painted in 20 years.
9) The power of momentum. If others are seeing your vision materialize and it happens often enough it will create momentum. People will start acting without you and working on behalf of the cause they have rallied behind.
10) Humility. People don’t seem to remember how it all started and you have to get good with it. I served on the Board of Directors for the American Marketing Association of Central Florida and some of the coaching was regarding, “check your ego at the door.” I finally learned that lesson at the front door of my house.
The outcome of getting what you want – especially if what you want is actually a better place for everyone is reward enough.
–Lynnette Leathers is the CEO of Mindspot Research.