Just Be Nice! (The Secret of Great Leaders)
I was returning home from a conference yesterday and sat next to a very nice lady on the plane. I am usually not very chatty on flights. I usually take advantage of that time to read or write since I don’t have many interruptions. But I am glad I spoke to this fellow passenger, Karen.
Lesson on the Airplane Ride
She was reading a book on her Kindle, so I asked her about it. I said, “You must like reading.” She said, “Yes I do, I love to read.” I then asked her to recommend a few books, and she did (20 of them). She reads mystery, adventure, and other type of fiction. A voracious reader, she said her goal was to read a 100 books by the end of this year. I told her that I too liked to read and recommended a book to her as well.
Karen had a New York accent but lived in Dallas where we were heading. It turns out that she was raised on Long Island, New York. A nice African American lady of retirement age with a very pleasant demeanor, she was returning from visiting her grandchildren.
She asked me what I did and why I liked to read. I told her I am a family doctor, and I like to write and speak on servant leadership and reading helps me to grow in this area. To that she turned to me and smiled. I added, “Servant leadership is when you lead people not by bossing them around, but by caring for them.” She thought for a few seconds, then strongly nodded her head in agreement.
She said for many years before she retired she had a very nice boss and that she knew exactly what I was talking about. She said, “The thing is, when you treat people nice, people will do whatever you need.”
She said she had worked for a real estate company and was the administrative assistant for a vice president. I asked her what made him a good boss. She said, “He was so nice to me. When he traveled places, he always sent me a card. When my father died, he sent me flowers, and always gave me a card on my birthdays.”
And then she looked at me and said, “Even when he wanted to change things around the office, he would ask for my opinion.” That made me smile.
I asked if she had other bosses. She said yes, but that some were not so good. She said, “You know when you don’t have a good boss, after a while you don’t want to go to work.” To which I nodded my head in agreement.
Karen’s Simple Message
I loved talking to Karen! We may have blogs, podcasts, books, college degrees, and research about great leadership. But at the end of the day, the core of great leadership is simple. Karen understood it perfectly. Most people get it instantly.
Just be nice.
I don’t know about you, but every once in a while, I simply need to be reminded of that. We complicate leadership to a point that many times we forget that this is the very heart of leadership. We pontificate, theorize, and lecture. We get confused and perplexed about why our leadership is failing. But the key is very simple.
Always be nice and treat people with respect and deference. When you do, you will be on your way to great leadership.
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