Magazine article Success

Shine Your Light: SUCCESS Leadership Editor John Addison Explains Why You Should Make 100 Percent of Your Team Feel Important 100 Percent of the Time

Magazine article Success

Shine Your Light: SUCCESS Leadership Editor John Addison Explains Why You Should Make 100 Percent of Your Team Feel Important 100 Percent of the Time

Article excerpt

Every living thing needs light. Plants, animals and people need sunshine to stay healthy and continue to grow. That's a crucial workplace principle, too--one known since the early 1900s. That was when Hawthorne Works in Chicago commissioned a study to see how to improve factory efficiency. Workers were told they were participating in a study on productivity. The only change to the environment was brightening the lights a tiny bit. Yet productivity soared. Even when the lights were dimmed again, productivity continued to climb. Lead researcher Fritz Roethlisberger concluded that lighting was irrelevant to the higher productivity; that it actually resulted because the workers' daily routine mattered to someone.

If you aspire to be a leader, let me plant this thought: The people around you are not there to make you a big deal; you're there to make them a big deal. Shine a light on others, and in the reflection you'll see a leader. So what does it mean to "shine a light" on those around you? It begins with finding the leader in you.


I often read about men and women who have charted their lives with amazing detail. "I want to be published by 30, climb Mount Kilimanjaro by 40, eat dinner at the White House by 50...." These stories inspire me. These people, who planned their lives practically before they could walk, inspire me.

I am not one of these people.

My approach to life has pretty much been to jump in the river and start swimming. When the river branches off, I do my best to take the fork that looks like the right one. I never had a grand plan for my life or master strategy for winding up in the leadership positions I've been in. I've always believed you need to get up every morning, make the day an adventure and do your best to be better than you were yesterday. If you spend too much time fussing and worrying about where you'll be 20 years from now, you might miss out on what you need to do 20 minutes from now.

That isn't to say big goals aren't great. I support having huge dreams, but there's so much you can't predict or control. What you can control is who you are and how you respond to challenges. We all walk different paths and have different backgrounds, but your destiny is your decision.

It's not a decision you make in a sudden burst of clarity. It's a decision you make again and again, dozens of times a day. Although we describe ourselves as human beings, I like to think of us as human becomings. Being the kind of person others look up to and are glad to be around and follow isn't something that just happens. It's a choice. It's as simple as choosing to smile at the office on Monday morning or remembering a birthday.

And it's more than worth the effort.

Leadership starts with leading yourself, which means accepting yourself with all of your imperfections and not beating yourself up over your mistakes. It also means deciding to rise above limitations and not letting negative thoughts control who you are. If you can do that with yourself, you can do that with others. Accept people's imperfections and be the first to see their good qualities. Be the kind of person others turn to for advice because they trust that you're not going to judge them or tell bad stories about them afterward.

The greatest opportunities for leadership typically arise when and where it's needed most. You can move light-years ahead during periods of trouble or chaos. Nobody appointed Gandhi to free India, but his countrymen respected and followed his example. People didn't trust George Washington because he was president; he became president because people trusted him. Find the leader in you and become the person people can trust. Only then can you move the spotlight to those around you.


My philosophy is that every business is a people business, and people are pretty much the same everywhere. …

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