Seriously, Who Are You Waiting For? Get out your pen for this.

I teach my students: “Kill the leader.” I don’t mean it literally! I mean kill the THE — like there’s really one leader. What a stupid idea. And kill the idea that I invite you to re-kill today: Who (are) you waiting for — whose inactivity justifies your passivity. I like it better without the “are,” Who, you waitin’ for?
What would the world look like if we stopped waiting, especially to share our best stuff?
Here’s the part about the pen. When I take mine out to write down who I’m waitin’ for, here’s who I’m waiting for and why:
My wife to understand the things I don’t tell her I’d like her to do for me.
My dean to build more of a learning “business” community among our business school faculty who are telling others about how to be a great learning business.
My students to “get it” that I’m not going to do everything for them.
My students to humbly but clearly give me great feedback, so I know how to get better.
My Reading for Leading readers to share more of their own thoughts with each other.
My graduate student to get our survey out.
My most challenging sister to realize how right I am (all the time).
The “right” to get that immigrants aren’t our problem; we’re our problem.
The “left” to get that the market does some amazing things and that we don’t always have to be angry at it.
The organized Church to realize that Jesus was so anti-church, rule, structure.
The media to realize that we and they have so much great stuff going and that as easy as it is to focus on the sensational and scary, we can also find ways to celebrate the good, and ASK HARD, HONEST QUESTIONS.
TED to come and find me 🙂
My son to realize how much I love him and then do everything I want him to do.
The deniers to realize that if WE don’t do something about the planet, then a few generations down there’s really going to be hell to pay.

I hope you see how mixed my genuine care and idealism are with my infantile wish that the world would do what I want, and that THE LEADER would do something about it.
I hope you see that I can choose to do something about every single thing on my list.
LEADERS don’t blame and leaders don’t wait. Leaders accept their own responsibility and act (even if the action is to humble themselves and pray, and not become a bigger part of the problem).
So, maybe today’s a good day to write your list and stop delegating everything you want and desire and hope for to someone else to accomplish. Maybe you should quit waiting for Godot (he hasn’t come yet and that play’s getting old), and
Lead with your best self.

  • Perfect!

    I like the honest balance of sincerity and sarcasm in your list. Sometimes I want everyone else to “get it” without me needing to do anything. This lesson takes a while to understand, and maybe I have earned the right to be mistaken for a “senior citizen” since I can see the playfulness and truthfulness in this lesson.

  • Nearly every time I take the “THE” out of the leader and act on an issue, I get punished. THE leader pushes back, hits hard, or plays mind games. One way or another THE leader takes it as an insult, or a threat to their authority. I am not waiting for THE leader to understand there are better ways to run an organization, but I generally expect that no good turn goes unpunished.

  • Mark John,
    That sounds like a really hard way to live.
    It’s great that you have acted with such courage. What a bummer that what you have taken from it is that authorities are always ready to punish the good deed. What a rotten world to inhabit.
    I’m not saying there isn’t an objective reality to authority figures acting with insecurity. Indeed, our pastor was brilliant in talking about how Pontius Pilate seemed to know what was the right thing to do, but in order to remain in authority he caved in. But I would also say — and you could say I’m blaming the victim — that if you expect this kind of response from authority, you may be creating this type of response from authority — both in their behavior and your perception. Surely, there is an opening somewhere. No? A way to appeal to the authority’s own sense of vision and values? A way to see the authority’s fearful need for authority and intervene in a way that doesn’t provoke their knee jerk defense?
    You obviously have courage and commitment. I don’t believe you can’t ally those C-traits with something else that will increase your chances of success, and in turn your optimism that you can get heard . . . And thus begin a VIRTUOUS cycle instead of what seems to be the dynamic you are experiencing now.

  • I decided not to wait to say thanks for this post and the things you share with us each week, Dan. I’ll be passing this message on to others.

    I also think there’s another message that has the word wait in it. A leader has to constantly decide what can wait, to strategically refocus her own and others energy onto the highest priority objectives and to say to everything else, that can wait. That’s true in our personal lives as well, where I might have to wait to defend my position another day, because what’s really needed right now is for my wife to know that I understand her needs.

  • Wow!!! Leadership can be all encompassing. At the same time, Leadership and Writing can be quantified and qualified through the chronicles of time and the lives of those who journeyed with the author to their own success. Your son will get there (we all did at some point 🙂 ).I said that to say, true leadership inspires others to become the leader they are meant to be. When leadership hits back and strikes out at personal growth it’s because something occurred in their journey that made others success intimidating. Most can agree that there are a lot of pros to leadership with great accolades but leadership is sobering (I can’t say it enough) because there is a lot to solve in our lifetime; so why not have others develop and grow with us along the way. It begs the question of what professional growth looks like under a particular leadership style. The operative word being growth and the fact that it should be expected. Leadership for me wants a life to be shared with others. I often tell people I didn’t get into a major argument with my sibling until I was 25 and she was 19. Early on it was established we were different for sure. I don’t always expect her to agree (never have). I do expect her to hear and understand my heart. We’ve spent a lot time together so she should know my spirit as I’ve journeyed to know hers. I’m the big sister so it’s more maternal for her but I expect her maturity to show in our relationship at this point. Now I can say this because I’ve always been the leader in this relationship as her big sister and therefore have been mindful of her in ways that speak volumes. Yes indeed.

    We strive and stress sometimes but then at some point the words we’ve expressed and wrote take shape and a life of their own. Overtime, we find that what we are believing for starts to occur. It is true some things take longer than others to manifest but it does happen. I wrote a goal many years ago and forgot it about. It took some time to make it’s way into my life but it happened. I try to remember that in my angst and disappointment as a leader and individual. This is a very timely topic around commencements and graduations and the spring of new budding life.

  • Today’s post really spoke to me, especially your closing remark … LEADERS don’t blame and leaders don’t wait. Leaders accept their own responsibility and act (even if the action is to humble themselves and pray, and not become a bigger part of the problem).

    Someone has asked me to be their mentor in a corporate sponsored Leadership Development program. I accepted with little consideration to implications of the decision. However, your words, your examples, your challeneges have inspired me to embrace this opportunity to light a flame.

    Thank you for the years of your wisdom shared in ‘Everyday Leadership’.

    • Kathy,
      this is the greatest compliment–that you’re fearlessly jumping in to help someone lead with their best self. let me know if i can help!

  • Sometimes leaders guide with knowledge that their followers don’t have. The perception from the followers is that the leader is waiting or is not doing…. when in reality, he/she is protecting and guiding as a leader should. If somebody were to just get tired of waiting and end run around, it could be to their own demise and any followers he or she takes with them. Teamwork is so essential. Maybe we should not be focused on who is leading and who is following. Rather on what is accomplished and why or why not.

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