“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” John Quincy Adams
I love this quote. Really, what better work is there for a leader to do?
When we think about leadership, I suspect we tend to focus on the ‘do more’ part of this quote as we seem to understand the work of leadership to be about, well, work. We understand the need to inspire people to complete tasks, get things done. Sometimes the to-do list consists of very big items, but it’s still about doing.
Robert K. Greenleaf, in his seminal work on servant-leadership, wrote that the test for servant leadership asks, “Do those served grow as persons? Do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous,…” Greenleaf’s formulation echoes Adams’ thought espousing the ideal that leadership is about more than doing or getting others to do.
Learning more is probably second on the average list – learning how to do whatever the task is, in-service training, staff development. We understand learning as part of doing a job. Though I’m not certain every leader understands teaching as part of their job, creating the opportunities for people to learn is also an important part of leadership.
And then there are the big ones on Adams’ list – inspiring others to dream more and to become more. One of my favorite courses ever was a graduate course taught in the MBA program at The University of Texas at Austin. Titled Literature, Leadership, and the Individual, it was based on the premise that authors have the ability to imagine new worlds and different futures and that leaders need a similar ability to envision a different future for their organizations. Adams’ quote takes it one step further – a leader’s work is to inspire others to be able to dream and to grow.
I’m lucky to have worked with people who fit Adams’ description and to have benefited from their leadership. I have been inspired by others. I hope I have been a source of some inspiration for others as well. Who have you inspired and who has inspired you and what have they inspired you to dream, learn, do, and become?