As I stood amid the crowd of young and energetic Lincolnites at Red9 last Thursday, I felt a little out of place for my age and lack of tatoos. With my forty-something gin&tonic in hand, I smiled broadly in response to the presentation of the new branding campaign for the City of Lincoln.
It was the presentation I waited seven years to hear.
It was seven years ago (2005) that we pushed our chips to the center of the table and called, “all in” on opening a restaurant. Long before the arena was approved. Long before the announcement of the construction of a hotel next door. It was a time when our end of the Haymarket was a dead end street, which is what some thought about the destiny of our little dream to help make Lincoln a better place to live.
The youthful majority in the room saw a representation of themselves. They saw a presentation that confirmed their desire to live and work in a city that sees their contribution as important. It gave them hope that their future might involve staying in a place where they belive they can make a difference.
They saw their future. I saw leadership I can admire.
As leaders, the people we lead are asking for three things from us. These three things will indicate whether or not they feel like there is a place for them under our leadership. If we don’t provide, they will look elsewhere.
Permission. Is there freedom under your leadership to permit new ideas to flourish? When participants or employees come up with an idea, do you give room to explore that idea? You may think it’s a poor idea, or not believe in it as much as they do, but do you at least give allowance to let the idea germinate? Do you squelch it, or do you permit it?
Validation. Its not enough to just give permission to those we lead and then stay out of their way. People need to know that what they are doing is a good thing and they need to know that someone constantly believes in them. Good leadership doesn’t just say “you have my permission.” It goes one step further and says “this is something you need to do.” Validating the people we lead and the ideas they bring to the table is critical if the future is to be better than it is today.
A Name. When leaders recognize the potential that their organization possesses, an ultimate way to show belief and support is by bestowing a name. A name may seem like only a label, but a name eventually become an identity. I learned this from Sears, as my father always bought Craftsman tools. If you own a tool stamped with the name Craftsman on it, it will be replaced without question if anything ever goes wrong. Sears believes in the quality of their tools so much that they are willing to put a name on it that becomes synonymous with excellence and value.
In addition to granting permission and offering validation, a name identifies relationship. Good leadership tells everyone that you belong to us and we’ll will do our best to take care of you.
The Lincoln Chamber of Commerce, with the help of Archrival, has given us a new name. Corny to some, awful to others, but inspiring to those of us who believe the name is accurate and representative. Its a name that bets on the future generation. It recognizes what Douglas Coupland said years ago as he described this oncoming Generation X that no one knew anything about.” Like it or not,” he wrote,”but they are the ones that will replace you.”
Life is right because the time is right, and the time is right for those ready to step to the table and push their chips into the center and call “all in.”