Elephants are amazing animals. According to Diana Reiss and her colleagues at Emory University in Atlanta, as posted in an article in Scientific American, when it comes to intelligence "elephants are right up there with dolphins, apes, and humans" and "like the other mammals in that exclusive circle are the only animals to recognize their reflections in a mirror". There is a lot of research to point to the truth in the statement and elephant never forgets. Now while I am sure never may be a bit strong, the article in Scientific American goes on to say, "Remarkable recall power, researchers believe, is a big part of how elephants survive. Matriarch elephants, in particular, hold a store of social knowledge that their families can scarcely do without, according to research conducted on elephants at Amboseli National Park in Kenya." This intellect and memory serve to keep their herds safe, strong, and moving forward.
Like the elephant, there are key things a Leader should remember to keep those within their sphere of influence safe, strong, and moving forward.
Remember the beginning. A leader should remember what it feels like to start a new job, a new position, or a new stage of life. Often leaders get to a point where they have passed many of these milestones and so they become commonplace. They should not become commonplace but a common ground with others. The fear, the excitement, the unknowing that others feel needs to be understood and part of a relatable factor of those around you. Giving those around you grace and understanding in these circumstances helps provide connection and continuity as you and they progress. Every leader, no matter whether they are in their professional or personal life has had their share of new beginnings, difficult starts, and learning curves. Never forget this or what you can do to ease the way for others.
Remember who you lead. This seems like a trivial statement but it is one that is often overlooked. Knowing someone's name is important. Using their name and remembering who they are builds relationships. Beyond that, there are other things to remember. Leaders lead people – humans with strengths and weaknesses, professional and personal lives, friends and family. The people you lead are more than just a name they are a part of what you do and who you are. They can be a reflection of your best leadership or your worst attitude. Leaders can determine how well they are leading by watching and evaluating those around them.
Remember to learn something new. It is important for leaders to acquire new skills. This can be done by reading, taking a class, or setting off on an adventure. Learning something new adds to who you are as a person and also allows you to keep in mind the feelings of going and growing into a new task or skill. The uncertainty, the happiness of learning something new as well as dealing with setbacks along the way that inevitably come when traveling in an unfamiliar or new territory. The people you lead experience these things as well and this will help you not only become a more well-rounded person but help you relate to those you have the opportunity to lead.
Remember the balance. It is important to not only find a healthy work/life balance but to encourage those around you in their pursuit of it as well. It is often difficult to achieve but should still be sought. Leading is important but there are times when you may need to follow or even sit the sidelines and let those around you lead for a while. Regardless of whether you are active in the role of leader or are just leading by example, it is critical to not forget to try to keep perspective and balance. It will not only help you not experience frequent burnout but will allow you to help others in their pursuit of it as well. As a leader, the things you value are often reflected in those you lead. If your family and the time you take to spend with them is important this will allow others to embrace that as well. If you are a workaholic and spend every waking hour at the office this will not only be reflected in your personal life but in the personal lives of those around you as they will feel compelled to do the same.
Remember to not miss the journey in pursuit of the goal. While leaders often chart a course for the goal or the next destination it is critical to not miss the journey between the two points. Often leaders get so wrapped up in checking the check boxes, staying on target, and making the metrics matter, that they forget to appreciate the small things along the way. Taking time to encourage others, mentor, and show appreciation for the distance traveled are all important in becoming a great leader.
Maya Angelou once said, "I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." As a leader it important to remember you make an impact on those around you. Whether that impact is positive or negative depends much on your actions. As an elephant has a long memory so do the people we connect with and interact with on a daily basis. Remember to remember what is important and lead well.