What real leaders do

Leadership is leadership, I don’t care what it is you are doing. If you are the top person within a group of people personally or professionally, it is all the same. You need to get people to work together to achieve a goal. The interpersonal challenges are always the same and it is your job to navigate the personalities to achieve the objective.

The price for failure is different depending on the task. As a coach of combat sports athletes, success and failure could easily result in permanent bodily harm. Business is different, people will not be physically harmed but harm can still be done to the long and short term quality of someone’s life. Having people go into harm’s way under my direction has really let me understand the importance of qualified leadership.

Lacking in ability can really get somebody hurt. I know lots of coaches that I call show collectors. They put people that are unprepared onto shows that they just want to be able to say they had a guy compete at. Win or lose the coach is happy to just put the experience on their resume while the athlete has to deal with his losing record and physical issues. The coach is growing his business off the stitches of his athletes. Fighters fight to make a living while coaches coach, run their own schools, and never step into the arena to do battle. A coach can reinvent himself for years while athletes get 1 window to make their mark before their body degrades.

I have taken huge risks with guys, having them step up to big shows and over-match them, but we made the choice together because the risk was worth the potential reward. It wasn’t about the exposure, it was about taking an opportunity to jump up a few spots in one’s career. A loss on the right show against the right guy can make an athlete some real money and get exposure to leverage contracts that a starting out athlete with no exposure can’t get. Sometimes this works and others it doesn’t, but it is an agreed upon risk with the athletes career in mind.

Knowing when to take a risk and putting the long term benefit of the team as the primary objective is key to leadership. You have to give away the credit and shoulder all the blame. The worst do the opposite and constantly point fingers at everyone but themselves. I have worked with many people that have failed and given me ample ground to point fingers. The thing is, I chose to work with these people and I am to blame for allowing them and myself to do the things we do. I have never been forced to do anything. I make my own choices and I have to live with the outcome and shoulder the responsibility. This is the heart of real leadership.

If you point fingers, you miss the opportunity to analyse the outcome and learn so everyone can maximise their future performance. Poor leaders get judgmental and carry a large bag of emotional content that has no place in leadership and teamwork. Drop the emotion, don’t carry the past as a dead weight, learn from experience, and be analytical about everything. Embrace what is being done well and figure out the solution to where you are challenged.

Leadership is a choice. Do the right thing and put success for the team 1st and worry about yourself last. Cut out the emotion and focus on the process. If you can’t, then don’t and go find a better person than yourself to follow.

Brian Wright