There’s something genuinely disappointing about being out in nature—on a beach, in the woods, above tree line on the way to the top of a mountain—and discovering that someone had left behind a bottle, wrapper, container, cigarette butt or the like.
You many not feel as strongly as I do, but I must admit this behavior confounds me. I can still hear my parents saying, “Whenever you go to someone’s house, always leave it in a better condition than when you found it.” In other words, make life easier for people, not harder. Don’t be a tax on them, return value instead. Demonstrate gratitude for the hospitality you were shown by helping to clean up. It’s a way to make them feel appreciated, and they’ll be more willing to invite you back.
You could call leaving a place in worse condition lots of things: absent-mindedness, carelessness, ignorance, self-centeredness, accidental. You might even call it an outright disregard for the environment.
But there’s one thing for sure you can call it: A missed opportunity.
“Make life easier for people, not harder. Don’t be a tax on them, return value instead. It’s a way to make them feel appreciated, and they’ll be more willing to invite you back.”
“And Your Point Is…?”
Like a boat going through water, as we move through life we leave in our wake the impact of our behavior on the world. You alone determine whether that impact will be positive or negative for those who come after you.
You could use the leave-it-better-than-you-found-it mindset as a way to frame almost any type of leadership interaction. For instance, as you’re wrapping up a conversation with someone you could simply ask yourself, “Is John feeling better about himself and/or his situation than he did at the beginning of this conversation?” If not, perhaps there’s an opportunity for you to make a difference.
Taking the step of quickly assessing your situation increases your awareness, takes your eyes off yourself and puts you in solution mode, allowing you to respond appropriately. And it works in almost any situation, for almost every role you might play: CEO, manager, supervisor, co-worker, sales, service provider, spouse, parent, friend, neighbor …
The Big Picture
Leadership, especially in a marketplace environment, involves getting results through other people. But if that’s your only view of leadership you’re leaving gold mines of leadership opportunity untapped. Leadership is also about adding value to people, equipping them to be more confident, effective, productive, proficient, etc. You’ll see these opportunities more readily if you start asking yourself: “Am I leaving [ INSERT SITUATION HERE ] in a better condition than before?”
“If getting results through other people is your only view of leadership you’re leaving gold mines of leadership opportunity untapped.”
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Damian is a leadership coach and the author of Taking the Lead: What Riding a Bike Can Teach You About Leadership. He blogs regularly at DamianGerke.com. Damian leads the learning and development initiatives at Saddle Creek Logistics Services in Lakeland, Florida, which has recently been ranked as one of the fastest-growing private companies in America by Inc. magazine. He is passionate about reproducing leaders in a disciple-making context, and is a part of 1Body Ministries in Tampa, Florida.