Sunday, September 20, 2009

Making Your Mark

One of the highlights of my first trip to England was a tour through the House of Commons in London. My good friend Martin arranged the tour for us. To walk the halls of the House of Commons and take in all of its history was an amazing experience.

The House of Commons is where the members come to debate the issues of the day and where the Prime Minister holds his question and answer sessions which can be quite entertaining.

While taking in the impressive sights our guide pointed out to us marks in the desk where the Prime Minister stands. Those indentations on the desk, he told us, were put there by Winston Churchill. During passionate times of debate, Churchill would pound the table with a closed fist and the indentations were put there by the ring he was wearing.

I have often thought back to my visit to the House of Commons and what the guide pointed out to us that day. As leaders, we too will leave our mark. Like Churchill, we too will carve out a niche that will be characteristic of our leadership. What will your mark be? I believe there are two marks worthy of consideration.

Leave your mark with passion. Shakespeare said, “O that my tongue were in the thunder’s mouth! Then with passion I would shake the world…” A passionate leader shakes his world with conviction and purpose.

In her book, We Shall Not Fail- The Inspiring Leadership of Winston Churchill, Celia Sandys (Churchill’s granddaughter) writes, “Churchill’s immense courage in World War II played such a large and varied role in his leadership that we will touch on it only briefly here. But it’s clear that when Britain had to stand alone Churchill epitomized Britain’s courage and resilience. His inspiring words, energy, his trademark V sign and ever-present cigar all combined to communicate tremendous courage.”

Churchill’s passion as a leader resonated with his country and eventually propelled them to victory. Passion is an ingredient all leaders must posses if they are to succeed. During great moments of passion and persuasion, Churchill left his mark on that desk in the House of Commons. But there was nothing common about it. That passion was a fire in his belly that would never surrender. What is your passion as a leader?

Leave your mark with people. The great philosopher Charlie Brown once said, “I love mankind; it’s people I can’t stand.” While at various times we can all relate to Charlie Brown, to succeed as a leader it takes patience, understanding, and skill.

John Maxwell said, “Don’t ever underestimate the importance of building relational bridges between yourself and the people you lead. There’s an old saying: To lead yourself use your head; to lead others, use your heart. Always touch a person’s heart before you ask him for a hand.”

In order to leave your mark with people you have to develop relationships. Positional leadership may be the starting place for many leaders, but in order to grow relationally and professionally you can’t remain there.

Dale Carnegie wisely said, “You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.” A good leader understands that his success is tied to the success of others around him. And with that being true, what wise leader would not care for those around him?

Leaving your mark with people is about praising them in the good times; patience in the down times, forgiving in the hard times, encouraging in depressing times, and above all else as the leader – being there.

Like Churchill, we will all leave a mark by which our leadership will be defined. Let it be said of us that we were passionate about our beliefs and we cared deeply for people.

© 2009 Doug Dickerson

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