Hero or Hero MakerNov 07, 2022
RAISING UP LEADERS WHO MAKE LEADERS
In the past, I wanted to be the Hero. To be honest, when I was in my twenties, my leadership journey was almost fully focused on me: my leadership, my leadership skills and my journey. Yes, I worked on a team and loved working with others, but I wanted to make sure people knew what my title and role was on that team. I wanted to speak on every stage, lead everything that I could and receive all the credit. Now, to my defense, I wasn’t unlike many of my peers. In our twenties we were trying to figure out so many things about our lives and we’re working hard to make a mark. But, I was definitely focused on building my career and selfishly down deep, I wanted the spotlight.
I was the opposite of what Dave Ferguson calls a "Hero Maker." What I didn’t realize at the time was that I was surrounded by Hero Makers, equipping and empowering me as I grew as a leader. A Hero Maker is when a leader shifts their focus off themselves and encourages others to become better leaders. The entire process involves recognizing leadership in someone, mentoring them, speaking words of encouragement and life into them, pushing them to get out of their comfort zone, watching them fail, seeing how they respond, and then witnessing them succeed at a level they possibly never thought was possible. It’s incredible. Helping another leader find their voice and succeed is one the absolute best parts of leadership.
As I look back now, I honestly don’t know how I didn’t see it sooner. Somehow I missed what was going on during those years behind the scenes. I was beyond blessed to have 4 mentors who were pouring into my life. I was blind to the fact that these men and women were helping me during that time. To give twenty-something Jason a little break, I was grateful for their role in my life. But, I didn’t have the wisdom to know what a gift it was to have them pouring wisdom, truth and answers into my life. I didn’t realize it back then, but I most definitely do now. Each of them had a different role, but each as important as the next. I was meeting one on one with them regularly. I would ask them questions and they would give me advice and direction. I would have never ‘succeeded’ as a leader without them. They built the foundation and inspired me to become a Hero Maker. Jenni, Rolly, Terry and Kevin.
These were my Hero Makers!
WHO ARE YOUR HERO MAKERS?
One of those mentors was Jenni. She was my academic advisor in college and she became my advocate and an amazing mentor. I honestly don’t know where I would be without her. For some reason she believed in me and I still can’t figure out why. I did not have an academic success story in college and I’m so glad that didn’t pass on to my children. My oldest graduated with honors from college and I couldn’t be more proud. But, for whatever reason, Jenni did not give up on me. She was one of the first leaders in my life to recognize my ability to speak in front of people and she’s responsible for my first paid speaking engagement. She was a challenging voice into my life and refused to let me quit on myself.
Then there was Rolly. Talk about a leader of leaders. Jenni actually introduced me to Him. Rolly had part of my dream job. He was a programming and production director for large events. One of my passion areas was planning events for teenagers and without Rolly’s guidance, I don’t know how successful our events would have been. He was patient and he was a teacher. He walked my team and I through planning a successful event from the ground up and it paid off. In 2001 we hosted an event for teenagers and had over 2200 attend the event. Rolly was a steady, encouraging and practical advice voice in my life.
I’ll never forget meeting Terry. Jenni also introduced us. Terry actually had my dream job. He was a full time professional speaker. He traveled and spoke for a living. I couldn’t believe how bad I wanted his job and to be just like him. Terry and I met and he helped me become the speaker I am today. We talked a lot about the art and craft of communicating. He picked apart my weak areas and guided me to improve. For some reason, Terry believed in me and helped me become a better leader and ultimately a much better speaker. He was like a coach; he was in my face, very challenging, but brought the best out of me. Not only that, but he has kept up with me for over 20 years and has been a constant source of encouragement and belief in me.
Lastly, there was Kevin. He was a well known leader in our area and he was an extremely skilled executive in his nonprofit organization. There seemed to be no bounds to his strategic planning skills, organizational prowess and ability to lead a team. I connected with Kevin because I wanted to learn those skills! I was a big dreamer, cast a giant vision kind of leader, but I knew I needed to be able to bring deep organization to those dreams and vision. Kevin taught me just that. He would walk me through the process of building systems and laying out a strategic plan. A few years after we met, he would hire me to be on his team and I would watch first hand how he worked and planned. It was an amazing time. Kevin’s voice in my life then and now has been one of constant encouragement, wisdom and truth.
I learned first hand the importance of raising up leaders, speaking into their lives and making heroes. I may have not realized it fully at the time, but as I look back, it’s truly humbling that those incredible leaders were there for me.
HOW TO BE A HERO MAKER
What season of leadership are you in? Are you like me in my early years where I was so focused on, well, me? Or, are you like my Hero Maker Dream Team? Pouring leadership, speaking life, and raising up the leaders around you? If you’re ready to choose the latter, here are some thoughts on how you can get started:
1) Identify the hero you want to help
Start with who is in your life currently. Is there a leader or younger leader who you can support, encourage and help? If there is and they are the kind of leader you would like to pour into and you believe they have the potential for more, then begin with them. If you’re their employer, then unleash the necessary resources you have at your disposal and begin your Hero Making journey. If they are not employed by you, then begin reaching out to them and connect over a cup of coffee or a meal. Those early meetups should be focused on building trust and learning their story.
2) Ask the right questions
As you begin meeting with them, come ready with questions. Bring a journal. Ask a question, listen and write down their answers. Don’t rush it. Let them process and talk. Ask questions like:
- Are you leading the way you want to lead?
- Do you have leadership passion areas?
- Which area would you like to grow the most in?
- Tell me about a time when you failed.
- What’s your greatest moment as a person?
- Share with me a story of your greatest leadership experience.
- What’s holding you back in your leadership journey?
3) Develop a plan
After you listen and process all the answers to those questions, you will begin to see patterns emerge. You may discover their dreams and hopes begin to surface. Use your journal to write down these observations and the goals they want to accomplish. Brainstorm how you can partner with your mentee to encourage, equip, and empower them to meet those goals. These notes could be detailed or just some bullet points. Develop your plan so that you can be intentional and see what progress is made.
4) Speak words that matter into their lives
Speaking words of wisdom, truth, grace and challenge into their lives is a powerful way you can mentor your hero and help them achieve their goals. Use every opportunity that you can to speak words that bring life and fill them up. Yes, you will need to speak words of truth that have the potential to cause momentary discomfort on their parts. If there is trust between the two of you, they will know the hard and challenging words you share come from a place of service and can be instrumental to positive change in their lives. During the week send them encouraging and challenging texts. Email them helpful resources like podcasts or youtube clips to stoke their fire. Speaking words that matter on a regular basis.
5) Challenge them to jump
High levels of leadership and success stem from taking risks and overcoming challenges. You and I would never have achieved this level of leadership if we didn’t have moments where we had to jump. We would have rather had a bridge or a rope ladder or anything else to help us, but some of the most beneficial growth moments come from being pushed out of the nest. This is especially helpful if you’re their direct report. Look for ways to give them additional leadership opportunities or to ask for their thoughts in meetings.
Intentionally look for wins to celebrate. Yes, there are going to be losses, but, focus on the successes. Send them a hand written card telling them how proud you are of them. Shoot a quick video making a big deal of their win at work and text it to them. Look for ways to celebrate and do it well!
7) Encourage them to make Heroes
Over time, through the ups and downs, your relationship will develop a solid foundation of trust. Once you have become a respected voice in their lives and you have seen them grow substantially in their leadership, now is the time to encourage them to make heroes. This is the fun part. This multiplication process is powerful. Inspire them to mentor someone like they were mentored. We raise up leaders to raise up other leaders.
This is a wonderful process and this will change your life. It changed mine. Take the spotlight off ourselves. Yes, it will be hard. It takes intentionality, time, and energy, but helping others succeed is a valuable leadership skill and one that you will not regret. Pouring into someone else brings so much joy and fulfillment.
By Jason Raitz - Speak With People Founder & Coach