Leadership Perspective with Jim Brown

Leadership. It is always an important topic of dialogue, but never has it seemed more relevant. And relevant at a time when the discipline of leadership has never been more difficult.

For the majority of us, we do not have the challenge of leading a country. The reality (maybe the beauty!) for most of us is that our leadership roles are much smaller and more defined. We may lead a business. We may lead a basketball team or a church. And, for many of us, we are leaders of our family. Regardless of the size of the responsibility, they all have importance and rely on strong leadership. Here are a few leadership principles that have worked for me.

Set a strong vision

What is it that you want to create? Anyone who knows me knows that when it comes to vision I like to talk tangible stuff. Who are we? What do we do? Where? When? Personally, I like to identify all the classic W’s and the four P’s, then make a structured, singular vision.

But I also recognize that there are softer sides to vision. And, the question I most often ask is what do we want to be known for?

This can be tied to any level of leadership, and an example I think works best is at the family level. One of my family’s closest friends has a vision to “show up.” That is what they want to be known for; no matter the good or bad that friends are going through, you can always count on their family to show up. We have a second set of family friends that are “tough.” No, they don’t go looking for trouble. But they are tough. In class. On the field. No matter what they are doing, they are known for being tough.

For MBB, our vision is simple. We get it. We are smart enough to understand your business challenges and opportunities. And we understand that our clients don’t have the budgets or desire for esoteric stuff. The vision is expressed best by one of our clients. Big agency thinking without the big agency bullshit.

Surround yourself with great people

You’ve likely heard this principle before. I think it is best explained in this video, which illustrates the importance the being surrounded by others who are willing to follow. We are all treading a very thin line between lunatic and leader. The difference is getting a great cast of people rowing in the same direction.

Always be coaching

I love basketball. And I have coached a lot of school basketball teams. I always made sure to surround myself with great assistants and players. I found there was formal coaching to the team and individual coaching to the players. And not all of that coaching came during practice. It happened before practice, after practice, in the lay-up line warming up before the game, during the game and, most importantly, post-game. I learned to let players know when they are doing it right and when they are doing it wrong. And instruct all in the framework of what is our vision and what do we want to be known for.

Sharing is essential

I am at storyteller. I think part of leadership is sharing stories of collective and individual success. I make it a point to share internally the work that colleagues are doing to live up to the vision and making a difference for our clients. At points, I feel like I am a cheerleader for people. But it is with a purpose. If we share the good that is happening, it allows us to see across departments and value what each person brings to the table. When we understand what others are doing, it raises that person’s esteem in the organization and is a challenge to the one hearing the story to step up their own game.

Never stop celebrating

Here is the thing, the world will absolutely let you know when you have done something wrong. We are no different here at MBB. There are tough conversations that happen every day. The only way to combat that is to recognize the big and little wins and continue to celebrate them. They remind us of our value and point to a brighter day. We find it important to celebrate the good stuff.

In short, there are thousands of books on leadership. Countless thought leaders and academic structures to teach the skills of leadership. They are important. They provide context and structure for how to lead. There is also human intuition and an understanding of what a company, family or moment calls for. Be in tune with that reality and never be afraid to express authentic emotion and direction. We need that today, maybe more than ever.

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