It was Sunday. I walked into the football locker room at Wayne State University. I was happy and proud to be an assistant football coach after Saturday’s victory. I saw the head football coach picking up athletic tape off the floor and throwing it into the trash can. The tape had been left over from the players after the game. I said, “Coach, why are you picking up the tape? Let the janitor do that.” He was bent over with a wad of tape in his hand. He looked up at me and said, “Walt, no job is too small!”
I was stunned. Here I was this young whippersnapper, just 25 years old; a college football coach who was too big for his britches and who got carried away with his title. At this moment, I was being humbled by a man who knew what leadership is all about. Leadership starts with being a role model. Be a great role model. It is the best way to inspire your people.
My track coach in high school said, “Your actions are speaking so loud, I can’t hear a word you’re saying.” Your people will follow what you do, not what you say. Show your people that your are willing to roll up your sleeves and do the dirty work. If you ask your people to work overtime, make sure that they see you working overtime. Once a week, tell one of your people that you’re going to do their job for one hour. To really impress the person, choose a task that is boring or frustrating.
You can’t lead from behind your desk. Though your in-box is full, and you’re up to your ankles in alligators, you can’t seclude yourself in your office. You can’t sit at your computer and communicate with your people solely through e-mail. Ken Blanchard, the author of “The One Minute Manager” recommends MBWA, Management By Walking Around. Your people have to see you with your sleeves rolled up. They have to see you on the front lines where the real action takes place.
The good leader manages people. The great leader inspires people!