Leaders Who Leave a Lasting Impact

This is a guest post by Greg Grimwood. He is a veteran youth pastor in Ohio, and author of A Parent’s Guide For Raising Spiritually Mature Teenagers. He also offers encouragement to parents in his blog Thoughts on Parenting. If you want to guest post on this blog, check out the guidelines here.

I’ve met a lot of leaders. Most of them average, some good. But two or three have changed my life forever.

Business People Interacting - Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/peepo, Image #8633913

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/peepo

In twenty minutes of conversation, Denny broke several popular “rules” of leadership. He interrupted me when I started talking too fast. He didn’t use a “love sandwhich” when challenging my unhealthy thought patterns. He didn’t cast a vision for my life.

He simply made me a better person—a better leader.

There’s a lot of hype and hot air out there today. Meeting rooms, board rooms, even churches are filled with over-promising, metaphor-abusing, catch-phrase wielding, “change the world” visionaries who get your blood flowing without ever touching your heart. None of them hold a candle to Denny.

I’ve reflected a lot about my conversation with Denny that day, and the conversations that followed. I’ve compared my time with him to times spent with other leaders, and distilled the differences to a few simple things. Nothing new, but all rarely practiced.

  1. He listened with his entire being. Denny didn’t just appear to be listening, he really listened. Rarely did he look away from me, only to jot an occasional note in his legal pad (whenever he wrote something down, I knew we would revisit it later). It wasn’t a passive listening either. He would interrupt when I began to rush my thoughts, and ask me to slow down and clarify. In all the conversations I had with Denny, I never felt for one second that he wasn’t tracking with me.
  2. He asked questions that stopped me, forced me to think, led me to clarity. Anyone can ask questions. The great ones hear silence after they ask a question. When Denny asked me a question, it stopped me. I would rush through a thought, and he would ask me to explain how I came to that conclusion, or what triggered the thought process. He would ask me to think through the repercussions of decisions I was making in both my personal and professional life. He asked for details, specifics. He wanted the whole picture before giving his thoughtful input.
  3. He shared thoughtful counsel with a humble sense of his own humanity. There was no pretense when Denny gave directive counsel. He wasn’t a fixer, never made me feel like I was a project. He spoke with confidence, yet never put me on my heels. There was no air of perfection. What he did have was a strong sense of who he was, and a caring spirit about him that made me want to follow him, listen to him, be in his space as much as possible. His counsel was well thought out, and clearly articulated. It was offered, rather than forced. Most importantly, it was good. When Denny gave counsel, I took it every time. For two reasons: First, it was abundantly clear in our conversations that he cared about me, and second, he lived the kind of life that I wanted to live. In other words, he was follow-worthy.

People like Denny move the weight of everything in their organizations, one relationship at a time. They walk into a room full of people and see individuals, not one mass lump of humanity. They command respect, loyalty and admiration by the way they live, the way they treat people, the way they communicate. At the heart of great leadership is a person who truly cares about the people they lead. A person who helps others live well.

I can honestly say, without exaggeration, that my time with Denny changed the course of my life for the better.

Question: Who in your organization can say the same about their time spent with you?
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  • http://www.therextras.com Barbara Boucher

    Many people do not respond as well as you did to Denny’s leadership style – until much later when they have hindsight.

    What is that Bible verse about a thorn in the side?

    • http://greggrimwood.wordpress.com/ Greg Grimwood

      It helped that Denny was very gracious, and truly listened. He didn’t come to the conversation with his guns loaded. He came to the conversation truly wanting to understand, and help.

  • http://www.danieldecker.net Daniel Decker

    Powerful post! Gets to the truth of leadership being about substance. Great reminder. Loved this line "Meeting rooms, board rooms, even churches are filled with over-promising, metaphor-abusing, catch-phrase wielding, change the world visionaries who get your blood flowing without ever touching your heart."

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1061137410 Dave Stadel

    I struggle with my ability to have real impact. This is brief post helps.
    I especially like "….They walk into a room full of people and see individuals, not one mass lump of humanity…."
    We live in a world where too few focus on individuals and instead want to classify people and find a populist solution.

  • http://www.validleadership.com James Castellano

    Great post and question. I sure hope my leaders say and feel this way after our conversations. My goal is to treat people they way they like to be treated while ending every conversation on a positive note. Of course, this does not happen every time; I am working on it though.

    • http://greggrimwood.wordpress.com Greg Grimwood

      Sounds like a great goal James! I am working on this too. The difficult part for me is to treat my wife and kids with the same tenderness in our conversations. I am REALLY in need of work on that one.

  • http://twitter.com/aaronRfoster @aaronRfoster

    Fantastic post !!! I've been fortunate over the years to have several people/ mentors impact my life in the same way. They're hard to find, but a true blessing as a friend when you do find one. My hope is to be able to do the same for others and give them the same gift of honesty and encouragement I was given.

  • http://intensedebate.com/profiles/cassle cassle

    Well, I haven't worked yet, but I'm currently working as a freelance writer before I go to the University. Thank you for the share. Umm, I think it's my mom who has the similar attitude. She always listen carefully and never missed any detail. (bust be very careful towards these kind of mom, very smart and don't even try to hide truth from her) :D Have a wonderful day everyone!

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/patriciazell patriciazell

    When I walk into my classroom, I make it my business to know my students as individuals. I make a deliberate effort to build a relationship with each teen. For the most part, my actions bear good results with increased student effort. Treating people as individuals is a great tool for any leader.

    • http://greggrimwood.wordpress.com Greg Grimwood

      Very well said. We should have more teachers like you!

  • Nichole

    Great insight!

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/AndrewComings AndrewComings

    Very good post. Insights for both the one being counseled and the one offering counsel.

  • http://intensedebate.com/profiles/theryanjenks theRyanJenks

    So legit!
    You are so right about the hype and hot air. It is so refreshing when you meet people that are fully transparent. It sounds like Denny is the transparent type.
    I am challenged by Denny's ability to walk into a room and see individuals rather than a stranger or contact or potential partner.
    Thanks for the post!

  • http://www.productivepinoy.com Daniel John

    Wow. "follow worthy" made me think. Made me also reassess the type of leaders I am following.

  • http://edwardpaz.com Edward Paz

    Great guest post Greg!

    My favorite quality of Denny that you described above was that, "He asked questions that stopped me, forced me to think, led me to clarity."

    Leaders who have asked me the "tough questions" have always had the most impact on my life.

    To both Michael and Greg, keep up the good work!

    • http://greggrimwood.wordpress.com Greg Grimwood

      Thank you Edward. There is nothing more beautiful than a well-placed, strategic question!

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  • http://www.blaneyoung.com Blane Young

    I think that Denny's philosophy of mentoring could be boiled down to the fact that all he cared about was your development. Although seemingly "a must" for mentoring, many times people are being developed for a return. However, Denny clearly understood the difference between being an investor and a leader.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/success2you John Richardson

    Insightful post, Greg. I met someone like Denny five years ago that truly changed my life. Her name was Rosa Say, and she put together a rag tag group of bloggers into a learning group called the Ho'ohana community. Rosa always practiced what Denny did… she listened with both ears open. In her professional practice she espouses a "daily five minutes,' where she listens to at least one of of the people that she leads for at least five minutes on a daily basis.
    This simple caring makes a huge difference.
    You don't find leaders like this very often, but they are truly the people you should follow, listen to, and learn from.

  • http://www.hybridhondas.com JLJ

    Fantastic and insightful post. Keep them coming :)

    Luke 6:38
    Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”

    Believe those words and head on over to http://www.hybridhondas.com. and please click on a link or two. It costs nothing. By doing this you'll be helping a fellow brother out so he can continue helping others.

    Please spread the word to other brothers and sisters.

  • dude145

    When will you include Scripture in your posts? I think that is what people can "really" learn from…

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      I do this occasionally, whenever I think it is relevant. However, this is not a Bible study blog. There are plenty of great ones out there if that is what you want.

      • dude145

        Ok. I am not criticizing you, but I do think it would make you posts more "effective". I'm not saying to do a full-out Bible study… just some Scripture that would be relevant to your topic.

        *What are some great Bible study blogs?

        • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

          I think it depends on what you are looking for. I suggest using Google and finding those that are relevant to your needs.

  • http://twitter.com/elchupacabracr @elchupacabracr

    I love the Christ-like example that he gave you. While you didn't use scripture in your post, you used scripture in your post. Denny was modeling Christ. Look at Jesus' life and you will see it reflected in Denny.

    How bout John 17 for scripture. Jesus talking with His Father reflecting on 3 years of ministry. Looks like Denny read it.

  • http://intensedebate.com/profiles/kaikunane ThatGuyKC

    Michael – thank you for letting people like Greg and others guest post on your blog. It is a great medium through which to be introduced to new leaders, writers, etc.

    Greg – great post and thank you for sharing! I feel challenged by your daunting question, but I aspire to attain it.