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  • Foto del escritorJuanpablo Barrantes

One of the most appreciated traits of a leader

By Juanpablo Barrantes Leader’s approach (6 min read) Sometime in the beginning of my career as a Junior Engineer, I started realizing how leaders in my company played a significant role either of trust or fear. Like in many other companies —I guess—, you will probably find great but also not-so-great leaders, both playing either the influencing or the manipulating game, each of them from the opposite side of the coin, one by inspiring to action or the other by forcing to action. It’s easy and quick to recognize who’s the leader you’re dealing with. Just see how you feel whenever you interact with them. For example, look for a hand shake regularly and then think how do you feel about this simple emotional interchange, does it feel genuine so far? Does it encourage you to eventually look for your leader whenever you feel the need of support? At this time I’m recalling of a really awkward moment a friend of mine experienced early in his career when the boss of his boss left him with his hand waiting for a hand shake... Wow! Just imagine that... Disappointment, mistrust, disengagement; after a continued relationship with a jerk leader there’s only this kind of feelings what mostly rule in your working routine. The business bottomline is pursued in the form of chasing results mainly by manipulating people. Sooner or later the brutal and undeniable reality exposes the truth, failure happens and the jerk leader is gone... or the organization collapses. So why is it so hard for the jerk leader to realize such narcissistic approach? Well, in my experience it’s the absence of the following insights: - perspective, - self awareness, - self consciousness. The lack of perspective acts like a blocker by blinding your sight beyond your ego; then lack of self awareness banishes the ability to seize your weaknesses and look for gradual improvement. And finally lack of self consciousness means you show little or no appreciation for anything you’ve received so far, neither for anyone who’s by your side up to this time. As a counterpart, great leaders show strengths in these three soft skills that people may refer to as humility: a humble leader is capable of seeing beyond those subtle people’s interactions, knowing very well his inner self and the gaps he still need to close while being highly appreciative to everyone and everything reached so far. I’d like to share with you a compelling short story about humility. This one was shared by Simon Sinek in his book “Leaders eat last” and also in Speeches he performs to groups of millennials called “The five rules to spark in life” “You only deserve a Styrofoam cup. I heard a story about a former Under Secretary of Defense who gave a speech at a large conference. He took his place on the stage and began talking, sharing his prepared remarks with the audience. He paused to take a sip of coffee from the Styrofoam cup he’d brought on stage with him. He took another sip, looked down at the cup and smiled. “You know,” he said, interrupting his own speech, “I spoke here last year. I presented at this same conference on this same stage. But last year, I was still an Under Secretary,” he said. “I flew here in business class and when I landed, there was someone waiting for me at the airport to take me to my hotel. Upon arriving at my hotel,” he continued, “there was someone else waiting for me. They had already checked me into the hotel, so they handed me my key and escorted me up to my room. The next morning, when I came down, again there was someone waiting for me in the lobby to drive me to this same venue that we are in today. I was taken through a back entrance, shown to the greenroom and handed a cup of coffee in a beautiful ceramic cup.” “But this year, as I stand here to speak to you, I am no longer the Under Secretary,” he continued. “I flew here coach class and when I arrived at the airport yesterday there was no one there to meet me. I took a taxi to the hotel, and when I got there, I checked myself in and went by myself to my room. This morning, I came down to the lobby and caught another taxi to come here. I came in the front door and found my way backstage. Once there, I asked one of the techs if there was any coffee. He pointed to a coffee machine on a table against the wall. So I walked over and poured myself a cup of coffee into this here Styrofoam cup,” he said as he raised the cup to show the audience. “It occurs to me,” he continued, “the ceramic cup they gave me last year … it was never meant for me at all. It was meant for the position I held. I deserve a Styrofoam cup. “This is the most important lesson I can impart to all of you,” he offered. “All the perks, all the benefits and advantages you may get for the rank or position you hold, they aren’t meant for you. They are meant for the role you fill. And when you leave your role, which eventually you will, they will give the ceramic cup to the person who replaces you. Because you only ever deserved a Styrofoam cup.” Always learn to be humble, understand that you in your position are appreciated and needed but not essential nor irreplaceable. Always be appreciative and pray thanks for what you have and for what you have achieved so far, but be aware of where you came from, and be also aware that the essential in this life is about leaving a legacy to those around you.

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