Almost everyone knows the story. It’s rich in imagery, temptation and religious design. And in two short chapters in Genesis 2 and 3, Adam and Eve are banished from the Garden of Eden. The devil is the provocateur in the form of a serpent. The temptation is the forbidden fruit that hangs from the tree of knowledge and evil in the center of the garden.
God gave Adam and Eve the pickings from any other beautiful, fruit-laden tree in the garden, but for this one, He forbade them not only from eating its fruit but also from touching it, too. Yet they did and fell out of grace with God. According to the Christian faith, their succumbing to temptation was the origin of original sin and the cause of suffering in the world.
Found in this biblical story, just like so many others, are lessons for leaders to consume. We see so many leaders, many prominent in their respective fields, acquiesce to temptation and fall from grace. News headlines broadcast their seduction and submission for all to read and late-night hosts to exploit. In some cases, a single lapse in judgment may forever tarnish a multi-decade stellar career.
Like Adam and Eve, the fallen chose to eat the forbidden fruit and likely committed one or more of the seven deadly sins of pride, greed, wrath, envy, lust, gluttony and sloth! Many of us scratch our heads and ask how and why this happened, especially if they are family members or close friends.
Leading people can be intoxicating. Through your influence and personal connection, you’re able to inspire people to do extraordinary things. Imagine the harnessed, focused energy erupting from the actions of others caused by you communicating a vision and pathway leading to a notional pot of gold. Success begets success, and soon the leader senses an exalted level of importance bestowed by their devoted followers. If not careful, leaders may believe they possess divine gifts that set them apart and fall to the temptation of allowing others to treat them regally.
I’ve experienced this attitude with many leaders, especially politicians from the national to local level, and CEOs from the multibillion-dollar enterprises to the small local manufacturing plants. And therein lies the trap. The leader believing he is to be served, the antithesis of servant leadership.
Guard against falling into this temptation by engaging a coach, surrounding yourself with a circle of independent-minded advisors, and establishing leadership routines that ground you. If you’re not grounded, you too are likely to be counted among those who fell from grace.
A business coach brings a wealth of experience, but most important, perspective and accountability. They’re able to observe if you’re headed down the hallway of the seven deadly sins and which doorway you’re likely to enter. They see strengths and weaknesses you probably do not, and they hold you accountable for your actions. Just like you can inspire others to accomplish unimaginable feats, they too encourage you to lead with character, vision, purpose and passion. You want to get grounded, retain a coach.
The very best companies appoint an advisory board. These are independent thinkers whose experience and success built them an exceptional reputation. Their passion is sharing their lessons learned and helping organizations thrive. Why more companies don’t appoint an advisory board is just as perplexing as to why CEOs don’t retain a coach. The advisory board offers CEOs and their leadership teams broad-based counsel covering the leadership and management spectrum. Their collective lessons learned and invaluable guidance is a multiplier for the leadership team and organization.
You want to stay grounded, onboard an advisory council for your company.
Leadership routines are good habits. Perform the routine, and you know it will add to your longevity and sustainability. Think of brushing your teeth twice a day as one of your hygiene routines. If you follow this routine, you know it will provide several benefits not only to your teeth but also to your image, self-esteem, confidence and other positive, lifelong advantages.
Likewise, one of the most important and impactful leadership routines is emotionally connecting with your team. If you’re a CEO, your most valuable contribution to the organization is bonding with the people in it, and you do that by wandering around and talking to them. How’s your family? What’s your favorite hobby? How can I better support you at work? What are your aspirations? What’s your biggest challenge here, and is there something I can do to help you cope with it? Make wandering around and emotionally connecting with your team a daily routine, and they will ensure you stay grounded in servant leadership!
Leading people can indeed be intoxicating. Finding ways to ground yourself against the adoration of followers is critical. Your insulation to temptation is in the form of a coach, advisory board and leadership routines. The coach offers perspective and accountability while demanding peak performance. The advisory board provides experience and thought diversity while helping the organization thrive. Leadership routines connect you emotionally to followers while grounding you as a servant leader. This is how you lead, think, plan, and act. Now let’s get after it!
Retired Col. Paul A. Raggio is co-owner, with his sister Lisa, of One True North INC Leadership and Business Coaching Solutions. Paul and Lisa mentor and coach business owners on leadership and management principles in achieving and sustaining their business growth and profitability goals. He can be reached at [email protected]