I was asked this question on the air recently, and it made me want to emphasize it with you. The question was, “What is the most important truth you know about leadership.” I didn’t need to ponder long. My answer is this: “You have a destiny, but your destiny is fulfilled by investing in the destinies of others.”
I believe in destiny. Most leaders do. They believe themselves called or chosen or ordained or set apart or specially gifted. Now, I’m a Christian and so I believe in a God who chooses and ordains. Perhaps you don’t. Stick with me.
It is how we walk out our sense of being chosen that is the key. Many leaders believe themselves chosen and live it out in a way that makes everyone else their servant. “I’m special and you are meant to serve my purposes,” is the message they seem to emit to everyone around them.
Yet I believe that great leaders are not chosen to be served but rather to serve. I believe that leadership is a calling that is fulfilled by empowering the destinies of others. I cannot fully describe how important this is.
The leader who looks out over his company or organization and sees it—its wealth, its people, its power—as all intended to make him greater, this man is a selfish, myopic fool. He will not achieve greatness, though he will tell himself that what he does achieve is true greatness.
No, true greatness is not a matter of amassing for yourself. True greatness is about enabling those you lead to fulfill the best they are made to be. It is about using your gifts to unlock the gifts of others. It is about making your inspiration contagious. It is about mobilizing teams and armies toward noble purposes that would not be achieved had you not invested in each man and woman to make that mobilization—and ultimate victory—possible.
Leadership, then, is investment. It is focused upon and measured by the achievements of others. This is what Churchill did. He was a great man, but at the end of his life he said that it was the people of England who had the lion’s heart. He merely had the privilege to give the roar. This was moving language, but it was only partially true. Churchill told the British people what they could do, told them how to do it, and then inspired them to get it done. They achieved magnificently. This is how great leadership works.
So, my friend, hear me: You have a destiny, but your destiny is fulfilled by investing in the destinies of others. How are you doing this? Where is the investment? Who are the people whose destinies are being empowered by how you lead? How are your gifts enabling the gifts of others?
This is a massive shift in thinking for most leaders. Yet it is essential if greatness is to be achieved.
Take time. Ponder this. Hold your life of leadership up to it. Make the changes you need to make.
Greatness is within reach for you. It is as close as your first step toward investing in those who have been given to you.
That’s it. Have a great Memorial Day weekend. Remember well those who have sacrificed for us. And let us sacrifice, too, for great and noble causes.
This week we heard one of the finest speeches ever delivered from a US president concerning the Middle East. Surprised? Listen to my podcast here and then subscribe so you don’t miss a thing.