Tuesday, June 12, 2007

It's the Network

Hello friends -

A mentor of mine is a United States Congressman from Michigan. I would be called to his office every few months or so to give an update on some projects or explain one of my decisions. He always amazed me by starting each meeting by asking what he could do for me. He would peck away until I gave him something that he could do on my behalf. I always left his office thinking that this man, as powerful and important as he was, genuinely cared for me.

I read a great book recently: Never Eat Alone, by Keith Ferrazzi. In it he stressed the power of associations. He talked about building and sustaining meaningful relationships. He highlighted the importance of networking. Mind you, this is not the creepy form of networking that consists of people who don’t know or care about one another, swapping business cards, trying to find out what the other could do for them. On the contrary, it is networking that seeks first to connect, then to determine what you might be able to do for someone else.

As I read the book, I thought of my Congressman friend. He brought this principle to life. He genuinely cared for others and wanted to enable their success. And lest you think he is an exception, I have recently made two new friends who also represent this concept – in their personal and professional lives. Both of them have established deep, meaningful networks of people that, no doubt, are friends first and business relations second.

I have worked with many military leaders who understand these concepts. They care little about career advancement or about personal achievement. Instead they are successful because they invest in their subordinates. They ensure they have the training, the tools, and the developmental assignments to grow as leaders. They put them in position to win. They truly, deeply care for their teammates (and their families) and find that mission accomplishment (and personal success) comes because they focus on others not on themselves.

All of this highlights the real purpose of leadership: other people. Leaders have as their top priority the welfare of others. They are successful because they have invested in the success of their teammates. They establish deep, meaningful relationships and make a difference in the lives of others. And when they focus on others, they find that they are enriched in ways that really matter – personally and professionally.

My friend the Congressman had every reason to treat me like just another office visitor…but he didn’t. He cared about me and my success. And you know what? I’ll bet he made everyone feel this way. That is the kind of leader we should all want to be. That’s Leader Business.

So what can I do for you?

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