By Kent Mulkey

It is estimated that there have been more than 15,000 books on leadership published. I no longer read any of them. Rather, I watch leaders around me, learning from the words they say and the behaviors they exhibit.

One of my favorite graduate school professors was fond of saying, “You can call yourself a leader, but if no one is following you are merely taking a walk”. I have known plenty of so-called leaders who, perhaps without being aware of it, are on a lonely walk down an empty street.

Why? They don’t elevate others, thus no one is attracted to them. They don’t invest in making their team more successful than they could ever be by themselves.

After a seven-year hiatus, I revved up my old Facebook account. I saw the usual stuff out there:  the same people posting photos of their cat, places they vacationed, and the dreadful inspirational quotes that are supposed to launch me into unparalleled success.

I also saw leaders, people who made a lasting imprint on my life, guiding me to be the person I am today. One of my former bosses stood out among the rest. He lived to elevate the team.

Here are just a few behaviors he demonstrated when I worked for him:

    • He never made it about himself. Although he was a widely sought-after speaker and advisor, he blended in. The paradox is that you hardly knew he was even in the room. I felt important.
    • He possessed solid values, deeply rooted in his faith. His decisions, actions, and his words circled around his core beliefs of what he staked his life on. I felt grounded.
    • He brought out the best in people. When I was in my 20s, he believed in me like no one before (or since). He somehow looked ahead at what he believed I could accomplish. At the time I was directing a fledgling nonprofit. He guided me to make it successful. I felt powerful.
    • He was collaborative. He never thought he knew all the answers. Other people at the table were encouraged to bring their knowledge, skills, education, and perspective. He was committed to going further together than anyone could go alone. I felt intelligent.
    • He was funny. The work was hard, the people we served often struggled with major life challenges. We needed some comic relief (but not at the expense of our clients). I learned to laugh . . . a lot! I felt lighter.

It has been said that if all you do is give directions, you are a road sign, not a leader. Be a model for others instead.

Senior living needs you now more than ever as our industry grows into the next decade and beyond. We need you to lead, elevating others to become leaders in their own circle of influence.

Make it about the team.