An ancient Chinese proverb says:

 If you want one year of prosperity, grow grain.
If you want ten years of prosperity, grow trees.
If you want one hundred years of prosperity, grow people.

People are THE most valuable resource.  Hopefully this is more than just another nice cliché rolled off the tongue of an executive when cornered and asked about her top priorities. Yet it is often forgotten when the “bottom line” is being discussed.  Maybe it’s time we realigned our thinking, especially in corporate America, about the bottom line. Or perhaps we should look at people as the “top line” and top priority that they are.

Leaders grow people.  This isn’t done overnight.  This priority can’t be delegated to the “V.P. of people-growing” and quickly forgotten.   Growing people is an ongoing responsibility of any and all executives, bosses, managers, supervisors and folks-in-charge.  Where does this begin?  It starts with each of us individually, and continues with all of us collectively.

“Before you are a leader, success is all about yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.” – Jack Welch

All lead and all follow.  The question isn’t “do you lead”?  The question is “how well and how much”?  What is the quantity and quality of your leadership?  If just one person looks to you for direction, for decisions, for guidance, for help, for information you are leading that one.  And for that one, one hundred, one thousand or more you have an important responsibility. Right now, at this moment, you are a leader.

Leadership is a privilege and with all privileges there are accompanying responsibilities.  How do you deal with the responsibilities?  How do you steward the privileges?  You begin by growing yourself in your role as a follower.  You look out and see a need that is not being met.  You recognize a need both for yourself and others and you decide to act.  You start by learning the foundation of leadership…service.  Leadership starts when you take action, when you decide to serve.

“Leadership is not about money, fame and power; leadership is responsibility.”  – Peter Drucker

A wise farmer will study the weather patterns, the soil conditions, the growing season, the insects or other crop destroyers and numerous other details before planting the crop and expecting a rich harvest.  The smart coach will review the rules of the game, the game plan, the player’s strengths, the competition and a myriad of other details in preparing for a winning season.  Likewise, the individual wanting to increase her leadership must first make the necessary plans and preparations to develop her own leadership abilities.  This begins by learning self-leadership, which includes self-responsibility and self-discipline.

Studying the lives of many of the greatest leaders of all time, you will find that they spent many years in disciplined preparation for their most important role of leadership.  They patiently grew by following others, observing and learning from their strengths and their mistakes.  They recognize a need, sometimes in others, often times within themself and take action to meet that need.  Service is the true foundation and motivation for leadership. And service is established and expanded as one practices it.  Leaders grow people, starting with themselves.

 “Leaders strengthen credibility by demonstrating that they are not in it for themselves; instead, they have the interests of the institution, department, or team and its constituents at heart. Being a servant may not be what many leaders had in mind when they choose to take responsibility for the vision and direction of their organization or team, but serving others is the most glorious and rewarding of all leadership tasks.” – James Kouzes and Barry Posner

Author: George Hendley
Instructor, Brightwing

George is a speaker, trainer and coach. Learn more about the instructor-led courses Brightwing offers. For a complete list of courses and detailed course outlines call 888-521-2478, ext. 317 or email Jenny.