Want to be Followed? Lead!
Randy Wolken, President & CEO

I know this sounds incredibly simple, but it certainly is not. Leading is one of the hardest things a person can do. It usually involves tremendous risks, but it can offer tremendous rewards. I have witnessed all types of leaders over the 30 years of my professional career. Leaders who are truly followed – and often loved – just plain lead.

What do I mean when I say lead? I mean they do what needs to be done first – no matter how hard it is or how much it costs them. They do it first – and keep doing it. They do the hard thing of doing what they know needs to be done. As Nike’s immensely popular commercial said, they “Just Do It”.

What we say may or may not resonate with another person. What we do and what we live truly gets noticed. And, what we do that is hard and requires tremendous sacrifice is what gets noticed – and followed – the most. Leaders must go first and begin to do what needs to be done. Later, they should tell people why – and how they did it. However, a leader needs to get the sequence correct. Do it first – and then talk about it.

Let me give you a very personal example. Recently, I joined my family in Michigan for a celebration of my parents’ 56th wedding anniversary paid for by them. It was a wonderful gathering of nearly 30 people from all over the country and from as far away as Hawaii. It was a truly special time. While we were there, we also celebrated my father’s 80th birthday early. Since it is in December, we really got to surprise him. What was truly special was the activity we did together for him.

My sister Rhonda asked everyone there to write a special memory with my Dad on a small note card. Everyone did it. A pretty amazing feat. While we ate cake, my Mom read them out loud. They were some of the most amazing things I have ever heard about my Dad. And yet, not a single one surprised me. In fact, most of them made me laugh hard or shed a tear.

Each memory was about a way in which he had touched our lives – usually in a profound way – through his actions. Each of them left a lasting memory. Do you know what they all had in common? They were about something he did. I can’t remember a single one that was about something he just said. My father will not be written into any history book – no shame in that. However, he is deeply loved and admired by all his children, their spouses, and their children. Why? Because he lived his love for them – in so many imperfect ways. I consider him the greatest leader – and man – I have ever known. Why? Because he just loved us no matter who we were or what we did. He led by loving us first.

Talking without doing usually leads to nothing – or worse. To lead you must do.

As you think about being a leader, what are you prepared to do? What would you be willing to do that would be incredibly impactful – and that you must do before you get to talk about it? How could you help others do what they know needs to be done? How will you first do the most difficult task? Why did you pick that one? As good leaders, we must be hyper-focused on what we are doing. It’s how we will be known as leaders. What will you do today?