Leadership By Russ DeVan
Is it better to be a leader or a follower? When I think of leadership, I think of Gandhi, Margaret Thatcher, John F. Kennedy, Winston Churchill, Eva Peron, Jesus Christ. What do these leaders have in common?
Well, it’s pretty easy to see that they were charismatic visionaries, great communicators, great listeners. They were also great followers. And I say you cannot lead effectively without knowing how to follow.
In my opinion, to truly be a leader comes with great risk. Surprisingly, popularity is one of them. But a leader doesn’t really care because they trust “courage of conviction” over what people think about them. Of course following has its risks as well. Christians found that out more than 2000 years ago and members of the “wrong” Political ideology are still learning today.
A man named Warren Bennis once said: “The kind of leadership that has gotten us where we are, maybe over in terms of its effectiveness.” For the last 40 years, I’ve been observing the paradigm of leadership in the model, known affectionately to us all as network or multi level marketing.
Here are my observations, thoughts, and conclusions: Leadership, for one, doesn’t have a gender, Mary Kay Ash, Donna Johnson, Sandy Ellsberg, her sister, Stacy Clark, Rita Davenport, Ghazala Jabeen, are just some of the many powerful leaders I’ve had the benefit of knowing, and additionally have been the beneficiary of their wisdom, coaching, and leadership.
In network marketing, I believe that leaders (and this is the paradigm) are the ones most often seen; the ones on stage, the ones with books, the biggest checks, the biggest organizations. I’m going to challenge this perception, however, as those being the primary qualities of leadership or maybe even the most important ones. Now, I don’t say that those things aren’t valuable and are not leadership qualities, because I believe that they are. But I also think there are more subtle factors that may be missed by those who would lead themselves or would seek success or the limelight..
Now, the “Holy Grail”, and the “illusion” of leadership, is that it is about the result being effective at motivating people and providing them with success. Here’s why I think this particular model is bankrupt.
My opinion is that the belief of focusing on success and motivation alone will not take us to where we need to go, as Bennis indicated. That a new model is needed. Here’s why I say this.
I, in my personal experience, have not found a way that motivation can be sustained, unless it is self-sourced.
We can go to motivational seminars. We can listen to great motivational speakers, and I believe that the model for teaching in network marketing has been more about motivation than it has been about productivity.
We can go to powerful speakers and we can go to wonderful weekends that have a wonderful effect. However, when we come out of there, like ether, inspiration can wear off, unless we apply what we heard that moved us. This means it’s incumbent upon all of us, as followers, if we expect to become leaders, that we model and practice what we’ve heard.
I also think it’s an illusion that we can be responsible for another person’s success.
Number one; we may have something to do with it, we may contribute to it, but whether or not they’re successful, is defined by them. A good leader will find out what and how they define success and then support them in getting there. So the image that leaders are those who provide motivation, and success to people just isn’t working, from my viewpoint.
I believe that there is a new paradigm for what leadership may look like. A leader is a model for what they are teaching. In other words, an example of how a product works; an example of how a business is built; an example of ethics, an example of vision, an example of productivity, what they say…. they do, and what they do, works when you follow it.
If people are “pretending” leaders or “acting” leaders, these results are not achieved. It just doesn’t get accomplished. One of my friends of more than forty years in the network marketing business, and someone I deeply admire, a mentor and coach of mine, who’s been extremely successful; a mentor and coach of mine,
Richard B. Brooke once said that “a leader creates and keeps an empowering vision.” Richard’s a visionary. He’s excellent at communicating that vision. But what he’s really excellent at, is enrolling others in that vision, and assisting them in creating theirs. In other words, they can become part of his vision, by creating one of their own.
That’s what he’s imparted to me, and it is a great gift.
Now, an “example” is the first piece of leadership as I see it. I mean, it doesn’t necessarily come in order. But an example is an important piece of what the new paradigm of leadership is about.
The next piece, I say, is direction. A leader provides direction. In other words, everyone that they’re speaking to, and they have a listening to is wanting to know: “Where do I go? What do I do? And how do I do it? Now, first of all, a leader needs to be sensitive to that listening, if they want to make a difference. The leader understands how to create a new possibility for prospects that may exist outside of the warm in the cold market paradigm.
I’ve known many people who would call themselves leaders who merely throw people off the “make a names list” cliff!! Who do you know? “Who’s your dog catcher?” “Who’s your mailman?” I just don’t think that works for people any more. (If it ever did.)
By “What do I do?” I mean, leaders are those who know how to promote a product, effectively, and not only KNOW it…they know how to teach it, and even MORE importantly, how to teach others how to teach it. They know how to enroll people powerfully in a vision. They know how to give people a choice, and they are irresistibly compelled to follow. What’s the plan? What are the goals? How are they satisfied? How are they measured? What do they provide? I like to offer four questions that every individual should know. And that every leader should communicate to those they would lead.
What am I building? Who does it include? What does it provide? And why would somebody want to be a part of it? A leader knows those things for themself and challenges others to do the same.
The last part of this three-part model for leadership is “support.” Now what support often looks like in the MLM paradigm, in my opinion is “hand holding”, “chasing”, “begging”, “dragging- kicking- and screaming…..” Yes? Maybe, instead, what support COULD look like is an agreement for communication. Meaning that, when the relationship is just beginning, it takes on the “feel” that Mr. Miyagi had with Daniel – San, in The Karate Kid. Mr. Miyagi said: “I will teach. You will follow. No questions asked!” So to paraphrase – “MLM do: Yes? Okay! MLM do: No? Okay! MLM do: ‘Not sure?” (Neck breaking sound)
Have you ever had the experience of someone saying how interested they are, committed they are and then they don’t show up? Again? Well, whose responsibility is that? Well, part of it I say, is on the part of the leader who didn’t have an agreement for the “how and why” we were going to be communicating in the future, on a regular basis. In order for a relationship to work, it has to work for both sides. What does an “agreement” look like?
So for the leader’s part; agreeing to lead. For the follower’s part; agreeing to follow.
The next part is keeping people motivated. Remember, earlier I said about motivation and success not being the job of a leader? Well, if you’re going to substitute something for that, what’s it going to be? I have a suggestion. The suggestion I have is to find out what people are committed to and then to co- create a plan and a structure that allows them to see it coming about.
Goal setting is part of that. But beyond goal setting, it’s important to understand and appreciate what that goal provides them that they’re committed to. That’s going to allow that person to see their own success unfold, and own it. Understand that the leader didn’t do it. They, (the person being coached) achieved it because they were powerful and following.
Those are the distinctions that allow them to become a leader. Because as I said earlier, I believe all leaders are followers of something or they wouldn’t have gotten into a position of leadership in the first place.
There was a time. Over the last 40 years, when being seen as a “leader” was very important to me, I guess it still is. But when I stopped working on being “seen as a leader”, and I focused my attention on delivering and contributing; immersing myself in other people and THEIR leadership and projects, I received more acknowledgement than I had ever received before.
I think in the new model of leadership, a leader can be in front of a crowd or be with many different kinds of people and come in like a mouse….and they can go out like a mouse. But when they go out, the crowd, the people or the individuals, are “roaring.” The ultimate goal of a leader is to put themselves out of a job.
The ultimate goal and objective, and intended result of leadership, is to put yourself out of a job to, in fact, have others that are following you become the leaders that they see you be.
It may be impossible to be a leader without also being a follower. I believe people have one that is better than the other. There are people that strive to be leaders and in not being good followers, but I believe they miss their mark. The rabid pursuit of success, the limelight, or being able to motivate people, just doesn’t work in the long term, resulting in duplication of effort or creating followers. The people that have the largest following,
I believe, really understand the listening they’re speaking into, and what people are listening for, and they provide it. They inspire while they’re doing it. Most of all, they’re out to communicate a message that people can take, that doesn’t have all that much to do with them, something that I call a sponsor’s responsibility.
A Sponsor’s responsibility differs from a sponsor taking it on to motivate people or have them be successful. Instead, they provide three important things. They provide an example of what leadership looks like, and how a business works, or even how a product works. They provide direction, which means they’re able at a personal experience, to tell people where to go, what to do, and precisely how to do it, because they’ve done that. There are many people who are held up as leaders that haven’t done what they say they’ve done, or what they teach other people to do. And number three, the support thing. That’s probably one of the things that frustrate sponsors the most is they don’t know how to support the people they enroll in the business.
The paradigm is “Oh well, some will, Some won’t, So what, next.” So in order to support people, you’ve got to find out what they’re up to, you need to find out what they’re committed to. And then create a plan with them, for them to get that thing that they’re committed to. And be in communication with them constantly about the plan, which means that they are proactive in communication with you, and you are proactive in communication with them.
If we really believe in network marketing as the thing that we call or reference so often as duplication, then we have to do something that other people can do, we have to teach something that other people can do. We have to teach something that other people not only can do, but they can teach other people to teach. And that’s where real duplication comes in place. That’s where leadership occurs. It’s in being able to duplicate not yourself, but rather an “effort.” Not having people say; “I want to be like him or I want to have what they have or I want to achieve what they’ve achieved.”
Instead, the new leadership paradigm is “I want to touch others the way I’ve been touched.” I want others to feel about me, the way I feel about those who’ve inspired, guided, and contributed to me.”