Every now and then, ESPN will air the World Series of Poker. They play Texas Hold’Em for gobs of cash and bragging rights.
The most dramatic moments occur when one of the players at the table utters two words…
Most of the time, this means the player is putting all of his or her chips on the table. It’s typically an all or nothing move. Get the winning hand and you play on. Lose the hand and you’re done for the day.
You can feel the excitement and intensity rise in the room when those words are uttered. Sometimes a player will call “all in” because he is sure that his hand will win the round. Other times, a player knows this is a last ditch effort to remain in the game.
While I don’t know a lot about poker or all of the nuances to playing Texas Hold’em, I do know a little something about going “all in.”
One question that I’m often asked is whether or not I believe every person can be a leader?
My answer: yes and no.
I answer “yes” because I think every person has the potential and the responsibility to lead oneself well. I believe leadership does start with you. You and I must learn, practice, and hone our ability to lead our own selves well.
But I also answer “no.” Not everyone is equipped or capable of leading others well. While we all have some level of influence with those around us, it takes a special person to step up and inspire, organize, and move a group of people in a certain direction…together.
In a room full of people, I encourage everyone to lead themselves well. But not everyone will be called upon to be a leader of others.
I walked into the room full of newly elected student leaders. You could feel the excitement. You could sense that each one of them was motivated to do his or her very best. They all wore the same t-shirt. They were all on the same team. The only question that remained between their success or failure as a group was a simple one…
Would they learn to trust each other?
Every new year is full of excitement and anticipation. But the one big difference between the teams that overcome the obstacles and the ones who get blown apart by the barriers is found in one basic characteristic…trust.
Patrick Lencioni, in what I consider to be one of the best leadership books for teams, The Five Dysfunctions Of A Team, states the following:
“Remember teamwork begins by building trust. And the only way to do that is to overcome our need for invulnerability.”
He goes on later in the book to say…
“Great teams do not hold back with one another. They are unafraid to air their dirty laundry. They admit their mistakes, their weaknesses, and their concerns without fear of reprisal.”
Building trust with your team and teammates is foundational to the success of your team.
The life of a student can be very demanding. You are learning to balance your classes, your relationships, your workload, and your free time. On top of all that, you became a student leader.
In the midst of the demands, it’s easy to begin to live from event to event…from one task to the next. When that happens, you will find yourself trying to play catch-up all year. You may miss out on what can be a great experience for you. A school year is demanding, both mentally and physically. Those intense weeks of learning, reading, and studying – coupled with your other involvements and responsibilities – can be draining.
My hope is that you will start off your student leadership year the right way. Before you become overwhelmed, I want you to think about how to implement each of these four strategies. This is simple advice for student leaders (or most any student) who want to get the M.O.S.T. out of the opportunities they’ll encounter during their student leadership year.
Do you know how to pick out a quality piece of fruit?
Everyone I talk to seems to have a technique to pick out the sweetest, juiciest, and tastiest ones in the pile. But I don’t have that ability.
For example, I was trying to make these fancy fruit parfaits for a special meal I was preparing. The recipe called for a mango. So I went to the mango pile at the grocery store and started looking them over. I picked the one that looked the best out of the bunch. It didn’t have any blemishes on the outside, felt solid, and had a great color.
But when I got that mango home and cut it open, it was brown and rotten on the inside. At that point, I realized the fruit parfaits I was making would be mango free.
I think there’s something we can all learn from a rotten mango.
I have a running joke with some of my friends. You might have a similar one.
We imagine what we’d do if we won the lottery.
We dream about how we would spend all that money. We talk about how many problems we could solve with our winnings. But then someone will state the obvious…
“Don’t you have to buy a lottery ticket to have a chance at winning the lottery?”
We all smile. None of us wants to spend the money on a lottery ticket. But it sure is fun to dream about what would happen if we won the thing.
Do you see the disconnect (I guess that’s what makes it a joke to us)? You can’t win the lottery unless you buy a ticket.
I know a lot of people who dream about making a difference or enjoying an adventure. They want to get involved. They aspire to do great things. They want to accomplish something significant. But they’re frozen behind a wall.
I don’t like to wait. The study of leadership seems to be about doing, about making something happen. But there are situations where I have made the decision to wait. Because that’s the right decision. A good decision can become a bad decision if it’s not the right time. Timing matters.
But it’s even harder to wait when the decision or circumstance is out of our control.
Yet even when we don’t have control over why we have to wait, we do get to make some choices about how we wait.
Unfortunately, we live in a culture that starts to get upset if the drive-thru line takes more than five minutes. There is a constant push for instant gratification. We don’t like to wait. “I want it now” is the mantra of those who have little patience and a poor grasp of timing.
I don’t think there is anyone out there who wakes up every morning and thinks to him or herself, “Yes…I get to wait some more today.” Yet we all wait. We wait for buses and trains. We wait at stoplights. We wait in long lines. We wait to hear back about a job. We wait to see the one we can’t live without. We wait for tough times to end. We wait for the right time to make a decision. We wait for so many things.
It was the end of the night. Our students had worked hard all day to put together a top notch event. There were numerous details and all of the elements of the event seemed to exceed expectations. As we were milling around the room, cleaning up all of the decorations, I turned to the student in charge and said one word to her, “Awesome!”
She smiled and thanked me. One word had said it all.
Everybody needs and wants affirmation. We all want to know that the hard work we have done or are doing is appreciated. Affirmation encourages us. It gives us the energy to continue to do our best work. Without it, we wonder if what we’re doing is all that meaningful or significant.