This is the fifth in our series of articles about things positive leaders can do to make a difference in the world around them.
Give your best effort each and every day, all day long. Take pride in the work you do regardless of how menial or sophisticated. Focus your mind and your energies at all times on the end-customer who will derive benefit from that which you do whether that is someone outside of your organization or within. Accept as your mission the responsibility for giving that customer the best product or service possible given the resources with which you are provided.
Value your job as an opportunity to contribute something of value to society. Each and every job is part of the fabric that is our socio-economic system. As complicated and remote as it may seem, each job done well, contributes value to the system. In J. D. Salinger’s Franny and Zooey, Zooey Glass reminds his younger sister Franny of something their eldest brother Seymour said, “do it for the fat lady.”
Seymour’s “fat lady” was a symbolic representation of Jesus Christ. The point Seymour wished to make for his younger siblings was that they should always do and look their best for Christ. Doing so adds an element of beauty to the world. The universe, which is the Creator’s gift to mankind, may be vast and complicated but the contribution of individual men and women is still the primary determinant of the overall quality of life for all creatures.
Think in terms of primitive man’s early days when society was the extended family or tribe. No matter how primitive the community, a clear division of labor existed in which all participants were expected to contribute according their talents and abilities. The whole tribe derived benefit from a job well done and the whole tribe suffered if it was done poorly. Although modern society is complex, things have not changed all that much. What you do is still important to the welfare of the community and it is your responsibility to do it to the best of your ability.
Do not ask “what’s in it for me?” Do not take the attitude that I will do it only when I’m certain of the reward. Do it for the customer who will benefit, whether internal or external. Do it for the community that depends on everyone to do his or her best; do it for your own pride and self esteem. Positive leadership is both life-affirming and self-affirming.
Put your trust in your employer. Yes, there is risk that an employer may take advantage of you, that you may be exploited. There is risk in all of life. Someone has to break the cycle of mistrust, however, so why not let it be you? And, do not be afraid to ask management to put its trust in you.
Do not complain about things you don’t like or that make it more difficult to do your job. Instead, propose a positive alternative. Think through the issue and talk to other people who view the problem from a range of perspectives. Then prepare a brief but simple action proposal and submit it to the appropriate authorities. Do not worry about whether or not it will be approved. Many of your suggestions will be ignored; some, however, will be accepted. Some will be filed away for future reference and will re-surface when the time is ripe. Other proposals will be scorned; and, some will spark a germ of an idea in the mind of someone else and will be a catalyst for change.
Something else will happen, as well, as you develop a pattern of preparing action proposals. If your ideas are positive and practical you will acquire a reputation as a problem-solver, as a positive leader, and as an employee to be listened to and respected. Most important of all, the customer whom you serve will derive real benefit. As this happens you will also earn the respect of your peers who will view you as an individual who can get management to take notice. As a result, people will begin to recognize your leadership. Never under-estimate the power of committed men and women or the power of positive leadership. They can and do change the world! It happens every day, everywhere. You can too!
Talk to people and listen to them. Listen empathically. Smile at them and be friendly. Help people to learn how to do their jobs. Reach out to them. Set a good example. Don’t feel compelled to knuckle under to peer-pressure but instead, stand up for your values and principles.
Be a hero. When we were children we pretended to be heroes who would display our courage under even the most trying and dangerous circumstances. The workforce daily presents opportunities for heroism and the world needs you every bit as desperately today as in wartime. And, the benefit to be derived from your leadership is vital to our society. So go ahead! Be a hero! The worst thing that can happen to you as a result of your courage is that a few individuals with little minds and weak spines may make snide remarks. They are inconsequential. It is heroes that the world needs so earnestly.
Work hard, be honest, stay late, volunteer for the tough assignments, innovate, streamline, establish a new standard, communicate with management, demonstrate your loyalty, say what needs to be said even in the face of danger. Have strength and courage. Dedicate yourself to doing the best job you can and expect – even demand – the same from those around you. Our entire society, our way of life, is threatened by a lack of commitment and heroism; by the unwillingness of men and women to stand up for what is right and to give unselfishly of their talents and skills. You can make a difference! It is your duty to yourself, to your children, and to your children’s children. It is also your duty to your sense of honor. It is this kind of effort and courage that made America the beacon of hope for the world and it is this type of courage and effort that will revitalize and re-energize our nation, today and in the future.