On the heels of a holiday on which many focus on the sacrifice of another, I’m inspired to ask you an important question. Can you learn anything about leadership from the homeless?
Some are Veterans who sacrificed for a nation. Some have made no visible sacrifice for someone else, but have often sacrificed so much in life. Yet, with the plethora of Facebook videos about what passersbys do when they see a homeless person and my recent encounter with a homeless man at my post office, I believe the answer to can you learn anything about leadership from the homeless is a resounding yes. Here’s what I mean.
They Have Resilience
A homeless person often has nowhere to go. They may have family, but no job. They may have no family, no more clothes than what you see, and nothing more than ingenuity to find a way to eat by cleaning your windshield. They may have an addiction. However, regardless of your judgment of these people, whether you feel empathy or scorn, the reality is they are in some way, somehow, in the face of what many of us can’t even imagine, finding a way to survive. In bad weather, with no roof over their head, with no title, with no speedy vehicle or even bus pass, they survive. Get this, with no cell phone, no tablet, no computer, and no Starbucks gift card, they survive. They get up every day and face it again, some even with some hope that things will improve. How resilient are you as a leader? Does it take just one silly person to wreck your entire day or do you bounce back pretty quickly? Do you lead your day in such a way that you wake up grateful you’ve got one? And is that work issue really the end of the world as we know it or might you find a solution or use a little ingenuity?
They Have Persistence
For years there has been a man hanging out at my post office, where I visit frequently. His behavior ranges from mentally disturbed to overly friendly to demanding to merely in observation from a distance. Early on I would try to avoid him, then I was the idiot who attempted to argue with the mentally unstable man, and then I looked at his behavior a bit differently. Last week, he waved at me, said hi and asked when I was going to give him my car. I hadn’t seen him in about three months and it’s been six months or more since he last asked about my car. He LOVES my car and always wants me to give it to him and this made me think. First, his memory is impressive. This is a busy post office. But second, this man is persistent. I don’t believe he thinks about what I say, but instead is fixated on what he wants. I suspect he will continue to ask for my car until I give it to him or no longer drive up in it. As a leader, at home or work, do you give up quick? Do you pursue what you want and continue to ask, ask, ask, until someone gives it to you or you get it? Where could you stand to be a bit more persistent yourself or in the leadership and development of someone else?
They Ignore Rejection
It goes without saying that those who are homeless get rejected. They get shunned, disregarded and ignored by nearly everyone who passes by, but here’s what’s fascinating. They don’t seem to take it personally. Now, I’m making one large generalization here, but watch the man or woman who stands on the corner of a busy intersection. He or she may have a sign and walk up and down a row of cars, but when people say no, they move on. Next. They wait for the light to change or they find something else to do or change their approach, don’t they? Well, leaders, this one should be fairly obvious. When you’re rejected, what do you do? Do you say “next” and wait for the “light” or circumstance to change? Do you do something else? Do you have a fit or take it personally?
Leadership lessons exist in countless places and to be truthful, this is not one I saw coming, but inside of one week I saw the man at my post office and watched this video on the freezing homeless child experiment in New York City. Both made me stop and think, instead of judge, and wonder just how much we could learn from those who may not have led their lives well up to this point for whatever reason, but have at least demonstrated key skills that we could all learn a great deal from.
I’m Monica Wofford and that’s your Monday Moment. Have a great week, an even better Monday, and of course, stay contagious!