Finishing with Style

The Stanley Cup Finals are about to start, which means that fourteen teams have been eliminated from the playoff race. That means we've also seen fourteen examples of one of the best traditions in American sports.

The NHL playoffs are tough. Each series is at least four games and as many as seven, which means opponents see each other many times over a span of just a few days. Emotions run high, and things can get pretty personal between players through a series. Not surprising, considering  that a championship is on the line.

But each series ends with a handshake. No matter who won nor whose stadium they're in, every member of each team lines up to shake hands with each opponent. People who just spent the past week or two fighting tooth and nail congratulate one another, and the team that was just eliminated wishes the victors well in their next round. 

Last week the Vegas Golden Knights defeated the Winnipeg Jets in the Jets' home stadium. As the Knights were awarded the conference championship trophy, the Winnipeg fans cheered -- first for the Knights, then for the Jets as the players took one last lap for the season.

No one wins every time, and how you behave when you lose is as important as how you behave when you win. Taking second place, fifth place, or tenth place doesn't mean you performed poorly, and it doesn't mean you've failed. Sure, it's disappointing to not win, but showing dignity and class at that moment is a great first step.

Spend some time reviewing; think about what you could learn from the experience, but don't let "not winning" be an excuse to stop playing. Be proud of how you performed, and move on to the next endeavor knowing you earned the respect of other people and yourself.

Good Character Has No Minimum Age

Recently, one of our moms shared a story about her son, one of our great leadership students. She'd asked him many times to attend to a chore that was supposed to be his responsibility, and he'd neglected it for a while. Mom finally had to impose consequences. The (very appropriate) punishment was certainly upsetting, but the story doesn't end there.

After the situation sank in a bit, the young man brought his karate belt to Mom, apologized, and said, "I don't deserve this right now." This isn't just an empty gesture -- he's an avid student, and without the belt, he wouldn't get to test for his next level.

Considering how many adults don't have the strength of character to accept responsibility for their actions, it's amazing to see that much accountability in someone who's still a few years shy of being a teenager -- and it says a lot of positive things about the kind of person he'll be as a grown up. Good job, sir!

Leaders are Excellent Followers

We capped off last week's leadership discussions with a pretty simple concept that's easy to overlook: every strong leader is also an excellent follower.

If you can't follow directions, how can you expect other people to follow your directions?

If you don't recognize the value of other people's initiative, why would someone else see the value in yours?

Most importantly, a good leader knows that he or she isn't the best at everything. Leaders are very capable people, and one of the leader's most important skills is recognizing times that someone else should take the lead. 

Remember, strong leadership doesn't mean always being the front of the line or the loudest voice. To be a strong leader you should always strive to be an effective part of the team, and sometimes that means following for a while.

Loyalty, Integrity, and Hard Work

Last week in leadership class we discussed an idea: if you demonstrate loyalty, integrity, and honest effort, your work will eventually be rewarded. It may take a while for your achievements to be recognized, and some people may never notice them at all, but display these three characteristics, and sooner or later the rewards will come.

What does this mean for leaders? Simple: a good leader notices people who demonstrate loyalty and integrity, as well as a solid work ethic. The good leader makes sure those characteristics and behaviors are rewarded, whether it's financially, emotionally, with public recognition, or by many other means.

Take a look around; find the people who doing things in a positive, appropriate way, and be the leader who encourages those people to keep it up.