Leadership lessons from Frances Hesselbein, part 4

August 24, 2015 by Joshua
in Leadership, Stories

What do say about yourself when you’ve hung out with half a dozen Presidents of the United States, won a Presidential Medal of Freedom, learned from Peter Drucker, been called the best leader in the world by CEOs of Fortune 100 companies, befriended four-star Generals, and things like that?

Do you keep it to yourself, as modesty would suggest? How do you mention those things without bragging, or sounding like you are?

Frances talked about them throughout the conversation. She didn’t go out of her way to, nor did she sound like she was bragging, but she did.

I noticed only one other person I could think of did that, Marshall Goldsmith. He grew up in Kentucky, so I thought his motivation was like a newly rich person showing of his wealth. But he learned leadership from her, so maybe they shared a common reason. I was curious.

At the risk of speaking too bluntly, I pointed out this commonality in their communication styles and asked why she did it.

She answered very simply, without a thought, “I do it when it adds a dimension.”

Those few words clarified it in an instant. Bragging is about yourself. She wasn’t bragging because her point of mentioning these things wasn’t about herself. It was about the conversation and the other person. If talking about something added a dimension and helped the other person, she would talk about it. From that perspective, why wouldn’t she? Why consider the risk of bragging when you aren’t thinking about yourself? There is no risk because you aren’t coming from the same place.

This perspective fit with her philosophy, To Serve Is To Live, because her speaking, as I understood it, is part of her serving and leading. She speaks as necessary to serve the conversation and other person.

No wonder I enjoyed the conversation so much. She was speaking to serve the conversation.

Her practice, serving the conversation, was the opposite of what it looked like from the outside, talking about herself.

I decided to try to emulate her, to speak to serve the conversation.

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