For the last 2 years I’ve had the privilege of leading a portion of an annual leadership weekend retreat for Troop 63 of The Boy Scouts of America. It is held at The University of the South, in Sewanee, Tennessee. The purpose of this weekend retreat is to encourage and refocus high school scouts who are naturally distracted by new car fumes and perfume daily. Our hope is to create a compelling experience that will help them stay on track to achieve Eagle Scout and to make better informed college, career and life decisions. This program was conceived and designed by Norman Jetmundsen, operationalized by the troop leaders, and supported by selected professors, coaches and administrators at Sewanee.
Last year the 45 scouts and 12 troop leaders attend the Saturday night awards dinner where the Dean of Students gave the closing talk. He began with these words, “There are three key questions in life: First, who am I? Second, what are my strengths? And third, what is my place in the world?” He added, “By the way, these questions are in priority order.” His speech was short and inspiring. When we debriefed the retreat with the boys the next day, a 14-year-old quoted the 3 questions as a takeaway for him. We were pleased.
Many smart people get placed in leadership’s roles, but smart only takes them so far. Before they can be a leader they need to address these three questions as proposed. People who answer them in reverse order are easy to spot. They say the right words in public, but when out of the spotlight they act from a place of arrogance and pride. Focused on question three, they sidestep any serious consideration of the other questions. When times are smooth, they seem to do fine; but, when times are tough they don’t. Focused inwardly on themselves, the people they are supposed to lead either slide down to their level, or they skedaddle. Phony finally fails.
On the contrary, those who work to answer the questions in proper order are more effective, even in hard times, because their influence is built on a foundation of humility and confidence. Focused outwardly on others, these authentic leaders reinforce an individual’s core values and positive characteristics, encourage people to play to their strengths, and guide them to find a role where they can excel. Sincerity strengthens success.
Journal Entry: Which question is your starting place? Who are the people in your world that need to face these three questions in order to advance in Leadership and Life?
By appreciation we make excellence in others our own property. – Voltaire