If what is on the inside is most important, does that mean what’s on the outside doesn’t matter? When it comes to being a leader we need to understand the importance of what is on the outside, as well as the inside. The content of our character is paramount, but what you show people initially can be truly inspirational. This is an important concept about leadership to teach kids; appearance does matter.
Consider this; imagine you are shopping for a sports drink. While standing in the drink isle at the supermarket, you scan the massive selection of sports drinks and notice something odd; one of the drinks has no label at all. There are dozens of bottles of bright blue liquid with no labels. The sign on the shelf simply says “sports drink”. Would you buy this “no-label” sports drink? I certainly wouldn’t. When I buy sports drinks, I am actually buying the promise that is made to me on the label. Over the years I have purchased hundreds of bottles of sports drinks and handed them out to a countless number of kids. In all of that time, I never once opened a bottle and tested what was inside. I relied on the label’s promise.
All too often, we never get to the see what is on the inside, because of what we see or fail to see on the outside. This is a critical element of leadership. As leaders, we should always invest the time to learn more about the people we are serving and leading. At the same time, as leaders we should understand that people are observing us and learning something about us before we have the chance to show who we are.
Consider this; you walk into a hotel lobby and there are two employees at the front desk. You have never met either employee, but you notice that one is looking directly at you with a big smile, while the other appears annoyed and indifferent. Which one would you approach? I would probably wait in line to be helped by the smiling employee. I don’t think this makes me judgmental, frankly, I would think I was doing the annoyed employee a favor by not bothering them.
Leadership labels include the things that people will see before they get to know you. What does this mean to a leader? It means that secret agents make terrible leaders. Great leaders show up to lead in everything they do and say. There is a catch though; don’t ever wear a label that isn’t yours. Getting back to the sports drink example. I love coffee, but if I bought a brand of sports drink and it turned out to be filled with coffee instead of what the label said, I would never buy that brand again, because they broke their promise. The same goes for your labels; don’t pretend to be something you aren’t. Lead from the start and always be honest about who you are and what you have to offer. What does your leadership label say?