The other day, while enjoying the sweet, juicy fruit of success, I had an epiphany.
Perhaps, just maybe, something other than my unique combination of skills had contributed to my success.
Wait, stay with me. Take a deep breath.
Was it possible, I had been helped along the way? Had unseen mechanisms supported me all along?
The great good consultant in me looked at this notion in more detail. What was the nature of this unseen support?
What I saw was my leadership infrastructure.
Leadership infrastructure is the Spanx that supports you and allows you to accomplish whatever it is you think you need to accomplish.
Like Spanx, it is an invisible professional undergarment that makes you look and perform better.
Building and maintaining your personal leadership Spanx is critical to your success. You don’t want to experience the unsightly sagginess of failure.
When I stopped thinking about underwear and moved on to the point of my thoughts from the bar, I identified 3 elements of leadership infrastructure.
- The Personal
- The People
- The Process
#1 The Personal
Your leadership infrastructure begins with you. Leaders take on burdens, physical and emotional, that require more from you than you (and others) might think.
Let’s get physical first. #olivianewtonjohn
You might travel when others do not – enjoying all the fun of luggage lifting, airport running, passport checking or TSA frisking. It might be listening to someone’s challenges or frustrations with work or life and the corresponding emotional energy it requires. It might be the need to be focused, disciplined and to perform when there is nobody around to cheer for you, support you or encourage you.
These are the personal requirements and realities of leadership.
Your personal infrastructure begins with physical health. You aren’t training for the Olympics, you’re simply doing your best, perhaps one step at a time, to make sure your body supports you physically. Maybe you drink a bit less on the road. Maybe you find time to take a walk or eat a salad.
There is not a final goal or endpoint, it is simply a lifestyle. A choice you make to be healthier so your body can do what it needs to do. For more thoughts on this, see an earlier blog, How My Wife Called Me Fat.
Your personal leadership infrastructure doesn’t stop there. You also need to take care of your mental and emotional health. Here’s some things I do to maintain a good to great attitude.
- Visit my crying closet Meditate
- Take long walks
- Stare into space Strategizing
- Seeking revenge on my enemies
- Eating fresh cookies (Martha just stopped by with her homemade cookies so I had to add this – mmmm cookies).
Everyone’s mental health checklist is different. You may not even know you are doing it.
For example, to relax and get her mind off work, I’ve noticed my wife Martha asks me to do things around the house that she claims I promised to do at some point, often several days or weeks in the past.
Think through your day. What are three things you find yourself doing to relax and refocus – giving you the energy to move forward?
You aren’t lazy, and unfocused, you are working on your mental health infrastructure.
Finally, is attitude. At the end of the day, you have to commit. I mean COMMIT.
I know this is hard to believe but I wasn’t always so attractive and successful.
I was frustrated at my lot in life, my performance, and the bad luck of the world that seemed to target me specifically and effectively.
During this time in my life, I realized I had a Mantra to deal with life’s unfair but very real challenges.
According to the web, “a mantra is traditionally a short sound, word or even phrase spoken in Sanskrit and used for meditation purposes”. It’s uttered in repetition to help keep our mind and body focused on the moment.
My own Mantra was अहं न ताडयिष्यामि. Translated into English? I. Will. Not. Be. Beat.
This focused me, reminded me I could battle through the challenges that assailed me.
Today, an older and wiser man, my current Mantra is the following. Don’t. Be. An. Asshole. (गदः मा भूत्)
For fun and to make the world a better place, send a link to this blog to anyone you think should adopt my current Mantra.
#2 The People
After your physical and mental health and attitude, look around. What do you see? Now come out of the toilet and try again. Yep. People.
It is hard to overestimate how your family and friends help you be a better leader. It may be by calling you on your self-indulgent bullshit. It may be by asking you questions nobody else is asking.
Don’t forget though, how by supporting you in other ways, your ability to lead effectively and compassionately is improved.
For example, when you get off the road, is there food in the fridge? Is there a message from a friend saying welcome home?
Our friends and family are a support system allowing us to apply our time and energy to the needs of our organizations and our teams. They may not realize how they are helping but that’s not important. Making your life secure, happy, safe, healthy – however you want to describe it – improves your likelihood of leadership success.
Be grateful for the help you get.
In fact, to honor my wife and all the ways she’s supported me, I’m going to give her an honorary pair of Spanx as a kind of award to show my appreciation. Maybe I’ll buy a fancy frame so she can display them proudly. Back later.
Ok, getting back to the blog. Quick lesson. Don’t give a pair of Spanx as a gift. No matter how well intended, there is substantial room for misinterpretation.
On the bright side, I suddenly have more free time to finish my thoughts from the bar and I am closer to using up all my healthcare deductible.
Anyhoo, your family and friends, your personal network, however you define it, is critical to success. Cultivate, refresh, and cherish – then repeat.
#3 The Process
Good personal habits or business process if you prefer, help you go from good to great as a leader. They also mitigate risk, protecting you from your own and the stupidity of your colleagues or friends.
For example, my favorite drink is the Negroni. It consists of equal parts gin, Campari, and sweet vermouth. It is an awesome drink I happily consume every day, morning, noon, and night enjoy occasionally after work and after any house chores are complete.
Unfortunately, Campari is colored red, “unmistakably, vibrantly red” as described by Campari. (#sponsoropportunity). As in permanent stain on the counter/floor/sweater/dog red.
To protect myself from the potential of an inaccurate pour, I place a towel or something down to catch any spillover.
This protects me from a potential stain and the corresponding lecture from my wife – 2 birds, one stone.
This is an example of how good habits or procedures act as an infrastructure supporting your success.
Think of what you might do wrong as a leader. For example, I’m universally respected for my lack of micromanagement. Others might describe me as hands off leader. Others might wonder if I actually work at the company given my lack of interaction with the team.
As one of my staff described it last week, “you don’t bother me, I won’t bother you”.
Now this isn’t always good. Apparently, interaction is sometimes useful (who knew?!).
Where is your own leadership style likely to create challenges. Do you forget meetings? Do you fail to reply to emails timely? Are you frequently being indicted?
Everyone has something they do less well. Make a list and figure out how to put in place process to protect yourself.
For example, because I frequently travel and due to the virtual nature of the company, I protect myself with an outcomes-based culture where staff have wide latitude to act without my permission or even knowledge. Want to read more on this, check out an earlier blog, Creating an Outcomes Based Culture or How to Avoid Stupid Meetings.
Being a leader is hard, but fun. You’ll learn more about yourself. You’ll have opportunities you might never have had otherwise. You’ll be RICH, RICH, RICH beyond your wildest dreams. BWAAAAHAHAAA.
Recognize and reinforce the personal habits, the people and the processes that support you in these, and every other, endeavor.
Just some thoughts from My Seat at the Bar.
The famous Greek philosopher Socrates might once have said, “It’s better to be lucky than good”. Personally, I don’t know, I read ancient Greek, particularly the Attic dialect, at an elementary level at best.
But I do know that throughout my time in the association profession, I have been impacted not from my own actions or decisions but from dumb ass luck.
Not everything that happens in life is the result of intention. Sometimes, fate smiles, laughs, frowns, and dances on your idea of the future.
If luck is good, your leadership infrastructure helps you take advantage of this opportunity. If luck is bad, it helps you survive, adapt, and move forward.
Just some additional thoughts from My Seat at the Bar.