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This week’s newsletter was inspired by Michelle, my leadership buddy at Church, and the words of Ian Treasurer, a five-year old preschooler from Asheville, NC.  Thank-you!

Leadership has become an industry!  Katie Gibson, writing in the Harvard Kennedy School’s Journal suggests, “Over the past four decades, a booming ‘leadership industry’ in the U.S. has generated billions of dollars in revenue related to leadership workshops, seminars, books, conferences and other materials and events focused on leadership development. But this hyper-focus on leadership may be detrimental instead of helpful.”  So what is leadership?  It’s as simple and powerful as opening a door!

As I wrote earlier, Ian Treasurer is five and attends the Asheville Montessori School.  Each Monday his teachers pick one student to be the class leader for the day.  One afternoon he came home and proudly told his father, “Guess what Daddy?  I got to be class leader today!”   His father responded, “Really?  That’s a big deal buddy!  I’m proud of you.  What did you get to do as leader?”  Ian’s response was simple, funny and profound, “I got to open doors for people!”  Think about that, what is a more basic trait of leadership than looking out for others and opening doors for them?  According to Ian’s father, Bill, “In a matter of 15 seconds, with seven simple words, my son had clarified what is most important about leadership.”

Bill Treasurer is founder and Chief Encouragement Officer of Giant Leap Consulting, a company that endeavors to build courage in people and organizations.  He is also the author of, Leaders Open Doors:  A Radically Simple Leadership Approach to Lift People, Profits and Performance.  Treasurer proposes that we have “complexified” leadership to the point that many believe that leadership is something beyond their grasp.  Leaders are expected to be bold and calculated, passionate and reasonable, rational and emotional, confident and humble, driven and patient, strategic and tactical, competitive and cooperative.  These are wonderful traits’ and they certainly lend themselves to a leader’s toolbox, but no one has them all – except God!

I purchased the 2nd edition of Treasurer’s book and found it a quick and informative read that served to reinforce my belief that we all have leadership potential and it is how we use that potential that determines what type of leader we become.  Treasurer proposes that leaders are simply creators of opportunity for others; “Good leaders affect who we are.  They alter us in some way.”  He identifies six “opportunity” doors which represent the ways a leader can help lift our standards and, potentially, change life for the better.  The doors are:

The Proving Ground Door:  Open-door leaders tap into our desire to excel and achieve when given the opportunity to prove ourselves.  They give us that shot at performing at the next level.  No different from the coach that gives the budding athlete, or the play director that provides the understudy with an opportunity to demonstrate their skill.

The Thought-Shift Door: Open-door leaders keep us from becoming too narrow or habitual in our thinking.  They help shift our perspectives so we can apply our imagination.  How?  Brainstorming sessions in a community park vs. the training room or using symbolism to weave meaning and significance and help employees see the connection between their work and the purpose the company is trying to advance.

The Door to a Second Chance:  The best lessons in life often present themselves following failure or “Messing-up”  Open-door leaders have a high tolerance for mistakes and view them as an opportunity to learn and grow.

The Door for Others:  Open-door leaders intentionally go out of their way to assure that everyone gets a fair shot.  Often this means providing opportunities to those who are least like us. 

The Door to Personal Transformation:  Open-door leaders serve as catalyst figures who can truly serve and make a difference in the lives of others. The well-timed and personal feedback an open door leader provides can change the entire trajectory of a career or life.  

The Door to Your Open Heart:  Open door leaders demonstrate through their actions that they care about us and our well-being.  We identify with them because they reveal themselves to us, letting us see their own hardships, vulnerabilities, and human idiosycracies.  In short, they are “Real”

Here’s the challenge; how can you demonstrate open door leadership this week?  What doors can you open for those who work with you or for you?  What about your family and friends?  What doors can you open for them?  And equally important, what doors can you open for someone you don’t even know; perhaps someone who has fallen on hard times or someone who simply needs a listening ear?  Remember, leadership isn’t complicated if you let Ian’s words guide you.  “Leadership is about opening doors for others!”

Embrace the Challenge,