Leadership Perspectives Blog
Leadership, One Brushstroke at a Time

Leadership, One Brushstroke at a Time

In business, it is not the hours you work that determine your success, it is the relationships and the positive realization of the commitments you make that cause others to take notice and view you as value-added.

A value-added proposition is subjective, often viewed from varying perspectives. This dichotomy is a blessing and a curse. On one hand you please all, on the other you please none. It is orchestrating that center point of convergence that separates good leaders from great ones where both hands come together at the right place and at the right time and for a common cause.

This is the story of George, a leader and beloved mayor. His town, small, rustic and nestled within a beautiful mountain rage, was buried in obscurity. It is a mountainous place adjacent to a heavily-traveled highway most would say. Not a place to visit. Not a place to stay. Not a place for business. The town is easily unnoticed whether at two miles per hour or at 65 miles per hour.

One day, George decided to visit a particular stretch of highway where his town is most visible to travelers. While sitting on the cold steel of a rickety guardrail by a willow tree, he saw something that caused him great emotion. As he scanned the mountainside from left to right and top to bottom and everywhere in-between, he wept. You see, he observed broken down homes with rusted fences, abandoned cars, unmaintained clotheslines, undiscernible loud music emanating from every corner, and his community, his constituents sitting on their porches with no jobs and an uncertain future. He reflected on the high crime and unemployment rates, the lack of businesses and all of the efforts he and his team have expended so far into making his town, their town, a better place.

Soon, his weeping turned into resolution and the disappointment in him turned into action and a crazy idea turned into a man on a mission.

George returned to city hall inspired, busting through the front doors, stopping at every office along the way and summoning everyone within his sight to an emergency meeting. Rumors flourished. What happened? What is going on? Is someone hurt?

“Do we have a disaster?” his staff asked.

 “I need everyone in my conference room right now!” George said, barely able to contain his excitement.

“Everything is happening because nothing is happening. Everything is going on because nothing is going on. Our community is suffering and it is up to us to make a difference,” he said to his staff. “I have an idea that I think will light the spark within our residents and turn our town into a better place to live, work and call home.”

A pin drop could be heard in anticipation of George’s next words.

“Frank, how much money to we have left in this years’ budget for community improvements?” George asked.

“Not much, about $35,000,” replied Frank.

“Jamie, please work with our local hardware store on the best price for 5,000 gallons of paint, 1,000 rollers, 1,000 paint brushes and paint trays. Frank, I will need about $5,000 more from somewhere,” George proclaimed. “Everyone, I need your help and support. We must work this project as a tight, collaborative team. Let’s spread the word to our community door to door if we have to and I will join you. We will be offering every homeowner in our town enough paint and supplies to paint their house at no cost to them.”

At this juncture, jaws are visibly dropped.

“The only stipulation is that the homeowners must agree to paint their home within six weeks of receiving the paint and they must select a color that is different from the one chosen by any adjacent neighbor,” George said. “We will provide the color pallet. We are going to bring back pride in our community and it will take all of us to infuse this energy. Who is with me on this?”

The deafening silence turned into curiosity, then excitement, then applause, then collaboration and then action. One by one, George’s team raised their hands and, before long, this crazy idea was becoming a reality. The community embraced the free paint. Shades of bright pastels soon adorned each house, broken down homes and fences were now being repaired, abandoned cars were being removed, the crime rate dropped to an all-time low, the loud music was turned down and jobs were created.

George could not help himself. Every day he would visit the same stretch of the road, the one where he could see a panoramic view of his beloved town. There, sitting on the cold steel of that rickety guardrail by the willow tree he witnessed an unbelievable daily transformation. A pallet of beautifully-colored dots adorned his town not too different from how master artists work their magic on oil paintings.

George was not the only one to take notice. He witnessed people pointing at his town from their vehicles as they drove by. Tourism subsequently increased. Attendance in school increased. New business made his town the one of choice. Littering virtually stopped and every day thereafter offered something of value to the community. George’s town suddenly became visible at 65 miles per hour.

George’s leadership and vision and his team’s hard work converted the seemingly impossible into the possible.

He orchestrated that center point of convergence, transitioning him from being a good leader to being a great one. He did so by joining everyone’s hands together at the right place and at the right time to create a value-added proposition with compounding interest.

In the end, it did not matter how many hours George or his staff worked that determined their success, it was the relationships and the positive realization of the commitments they made that caused his community to take notice and view him and themselves as value-added… all by applying leadership, one brushstroke at a time.

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