Sacrifice

Okay, let's talk about sacrifice. My wife, who is already suffering a post-Nepal-trip flu, fell asleep on our couch last night. At zero-dark-thirty this morning, our youngest daughter, Honora, woke up with similar symptoms. She went downstairs, curled up next to Kathleen on the couch and kept her awake for the remaining portion of the morning.  Kathleen did not wake me up, though she had an eight o'clock appointment with a client. By the time I woke up, she had Honora under control, got ready for work, then came downstairs and helped Emma, our oldest, create a faux buckskin tablecloth for her school project on indigenous cultures.  Between all of this, of course, she was also engaging our middle child, Caroline, who didn't want to be left out of the excitement.

The point of sharing this information is not to celebrate my wife's profound dedication to our daughters, although it is amazing and deserving of such praise.  The point is that true leadership requires sacrifice.  Real leaders don't just mail it in when they are tired, or sick, or having a bad day.  They put others first and they continue soldiering on.

Sacrifice is often associated with the Supreme Sacrifice, that of laying your life down for others.  I suggest that to lay down your life for others is different than laying your life down BECAUSE of others, as the former implies you are trading your life for theirs and the latter that you are simply dying with them.  I'm not going to go into the issues I alluded to yesterday, about not wanting to leave your fallen brother.  What I am getting at is that the act of laying your life down FOR another implies a trade, or the meaning of sacrifice in that you do something so that someone else can gain something.

My wife could have sent Honora to wake me up and continue sleeping, which she should have, but she did not.  My wife could have told Emma to suck it up, to figure out her project herself, but she did not.  She could have told Caroline to leave her alone, because she didn't have the time, but she did not.  She took one for the team, she did what she did, and she showed our daughters what it is that mothers do.  They sacrifice.

As an officer, you are called to sacrifice as well.  If you don't, you are just one of the gang.  You have to put on your game face and do what needs to be done, not only because it is your job, but as a leader, you have to lead.  You have to be in front, showing people the way.  You have to provide positive examples for your team.  You have to engage, coach, correct, reinforce, teach, and mentor.  This all requires time.  It requires patience.  It requires understanding your people and what motivates them.

Transformational leadership doesn't come about by simply telling someone what to do and expecting compliance.  It is the difference between catching the fish and teaching someone how to catch fish, as the saying goes.  It is one thing to catch the fish, it is entirely another to take the time to teach someone to do it for themselves.  But this sacrifice of time, if correctly applied, is an investment in the future.

When you think about leadership and stewardship, they are basically the same thing.  They involve "taking care" of something, usually people.  Leading can come about because you simply happen to be the person at the front of the line. But real leadership comes from knowing where to take that line and how to avoid pitfalls along the way.  That requires caring about everyone else and shepherding them to the final destination.  And because it requires you to do MORE than just following, it is in itself, sacrifice.

We can exist or we can take action.  We can take up space on this planet or we can work to make it a better place.  If you are reading this, except for those of you I shame into reading my articles because you are close friends or relatives, you are likely interested in learning more about leadership.  So I don't believe that existence is sufficient for what you have in mind.  Take hold of the standard, put it up high where others can see it, and advance. If you are doing it right, others will follow.  When they see you are willing to sacrifice, they may even offer to carry that flag for you.  And when they can create the same momentum, that, THAT is leadership.

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