4 Ridiculously Simple Concepts for the Aspirational Leader

There is a new movie out about Fred Rogers, the beloved figure from our youth. To say he was amazing is an understatement. We have a little book in our office called Life’s Journeys According to Mister Rogers, Things to Remember Along the Way written by Fred himself. 

We cracked it open to find some inspiration, and well, Mister Rogers made this week’s blog very easy to write! Every quote and musing of his had something pertinent to apply to leadership, especially the aspirational kind, where a leader aims to positively influence the capacity of their people to flourish. We can think of no better place to start than with his famous tag line, “Won’t you be my neighbor?” 

“Won’t you be my neighbor?”

There’s a reason so many organizations call their locations ‘neighborhoods’ or ‘communities’. These words feel welcoming and warm. But it’s really the people, the neighbors, and not the buildings, that make these places truly inviting. Fred describes neighbors as “who we are with” and we describe culture as “how we do things around here.” The two are very closely connected. 

Being neighborly is being friendly, caring, and kind. It inspires teamwork, collaboration, accountability, communication, and oh so many great outcomes. Being neighborly means you have a stake in the well-being of all your neighbors; your residents, their families, and your team members and their families! 

To be neighborly seems natural, but it is an intentional mindset. If you are searching for a mantra as you navigate through your day, greet everyone you come in contact with “Won’t you be my neighbor?” in mind. It’s a wonderful and caring lens to see the world through and it helps raise the bar on organizational culture.

“Anyone who has ever been able to sustain good work has had at least one person–and often many–who have believed in him or her. We just don’t get to be competent human beings without a lot of different investments from others.”

Through our work with clients, measuring their culture and diving in deep with their teams, we have learned that people want to be recognized. Not just want it, they crave it. Recognition comes up consistently as a desired workplace value in the organizations we survey. 

If you treat people like a 10, they will act like a 10. Leadership expert John C. Maxwell said, “Believe the best in others, and you will bring out their best.” Recognize an individual’s strength, point it out, and nurture it. Tell them and show them that you believe in them. Become that person they will reflect on in years to come as being critical to their success. 

As a leader and as a leadership team, plan how you can contribute to recognizing team members on a regular basis, not just in formal awards ceremonies. Create a culture of recognition and strive to catch your people in moments of greatness in a “hey, I saw that, you are awesome”’ kind of way. Make it timely, make it authentic, make it motivating, and it will multiply greatness throughout your organization.

“How our words are understood doesn’t just depend on how we express our ideas. It also depends on how someone receives what we are saying. I think the most important part about communicating is the listening we do beforehand. When we can truly respect what someone brings to what we’re offering, it makes the communication all the more meaningful.”

Oftentimes, the most well-intentioned person listens while simultaneously thinking of what they will say next. This is half listening. A half listened to conversation is a missed opportunity. It can start a cascade of confusion, mixed messages, conflicting directives, frustration, and blame, and it conveys a lack of respect. Active and engaged listening is imperative to leading and understanding others. The input from your team members is a priceless commodity. Information, data, and opinions are your lifelines. Being ‘all ears’ will provide rewards on a daily basis.

“Where would any of us be without teachers–without people who have passion for their art or their science or their craft and love it right in front of us? What would any of us do without teachers passing on to us what they know is essential about life?”

In our 30-Day Leadership Challenge retreat, we talk about the importance of Modeling the Way for leaders. This concept is from James Kouzes and Barry Posner’s extensive 4 decades of research on what makes an exemplary leader. It tells us that leaders who want to gain commitment and achieve the highest standards must be models of the behavior they expect of others.

This does not just apply to living values, it applies to the enthusiasm and positivity you bring each day, the depth of passion you have for what you do and if you show it, and the level of commitment you demonstrate to your organization. Leaders are teachers after all, and eyes are always on you. Loving what you do in front of your teams can prove to be the greatest lesson of all.