Apr
24

Leaders Show Up Even When It’s Not Fun

by  Jennifer V. Miller  |  Leadership Development

My daughter’s Little League recently held their Field Clean-Up Day. This event takes place at 9:00 AM on a Saturday in the middle of April. We live in Michigan, so the weather is usually windy, rainy and the air temp hovers near 40 degrees Fahrenheit.  This year, it snowed.

Ostensibly here’s what’s supposed to happen: each softball team is assigned a segment of the Little League grounds to clean up debris and spread fresh sand onto the diamonds. Each area has anywhere from 10 – 15 families assigned to it, so the process should be brief. Every year we get an email reminder from the League Director: “Many hands make the load light – please be sure to show up.”

Here’s what actually happens – there is a 50% turnout rate. Of the people in attendance, half are young kids, who aren’t physically strong enough to lift wet leaf bags or break large branches in two.

So guess who does the large share of the work? Yep, the five or six parents who bothered to show up. For several years, when both of my kids were in Little League, my husband and I would “divide and conquer” – me showing up to Field Clean-Up Day with one kid, him with the other at a different location. One year, the coach remarked to me, “Wow, Jennifer, I’m so impressed – we rarely see the moms here on Clean-Up Day.”

To which I replied: “We have a job to do. We were asked to show up. So I showed up.”

I have a bad back and an overall aversion to hard physical labor, so Field Clean-Up Day isn’t my favorite part of Little League season. In this situation, my aches and pains are irrelevant. It’s really very simple – you show up to do the work, even if the task is difficult or distasteful. The team needs you.

Just as parents, who are leaders on the Little League field, must show up and role model “doing the work” even when it’s not fun, so must leaders in organizational life show up.  Many years ago, one of my first supervisors told me, “Jennifer, I will never ask you to do something that I wouldn’t do myself.”  People who lead with character do so in a way that demonstrates “I’m not above this; I’m here to help.”

Of course, that’s not to say that leaders must do everything themselves; that’s not feasible. But they must be willing to show that all work has value. If the work doesn’t have value, then why are you doing it? On the Little League field, unsavory tasks like raking wet leaves in the rain lead to a field ready for the more fun pursuits of game day. In the work world, it’s no different – all work is valuable, if it leads to valuable outputs.
Image credit: ilposeidone / 123RF Stock Photo

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About The Author

Articles By jennifer-miller
Jennifer V. Miller is a leadership development consultant whose writing and digital training materials help business professionals better lead themselves and others towards greater career success.  »  View Profile

What People Are Saying

Katy  |  24 Apr 2013  |  Reply

Great post Jennifer – it’s so true that not all of leadership is glamorous or fun. Many times being a leader means going first when it’s not fun. It can be hard not to complain and not to resent the people that don’t show up or don’t pitch in but it’s important to remember that the people who show up are the right people and to make the best of it. Thanks!

Jennifer V. Miller  |  24 Apr 2013  |  Reply

Katy,

You bring up an excellent point – resentment *can* build – and think of how that resentment builds when employees feel their leaders aren’t “showing up” either physically or emotionally.

Mike Henry  |  24 Apr 2013  |  Reply

Thanks for the great reminder Jennifer. Seems like your post showed up just in time to remind me that showing up isn’t a choice I can afford to take lightly. Our actions document who we are. I don’t want to be the kind of person who doesn’t show up, leader or not. Thanks again for the post!

Jennifer V. Miller  |  24 Apr 2013  |  Reply

Mike,

This post was interesting for me to write. It helped me see the areas in my life where I’m not showing up in the way that I should. I’ve been cleaning up Little League fields, yes, but perhaps avoiding a few other areas that are easier to skirt around, thinking “nobody will notice.”

But guess what? People do notice. We can’t be everything to everyone and we certainly can’t be everywhere all the time. But we *can* make choices about where to be and when.

Mike Henry  |  24 Apr 2013  | 

I agree! In fact, I have to do a better job of saying “No” or even “Heck no!” to more things so I can give my best energy to the things that matter. The problem begins when I commit, not when I choose to honor the commitment. It is convicting.

Linda Freeman  |  24 Apr 2013  |  Reply

Jennifer: Modeling “doing the work” is an important aspect of leadership that children need to learn early in life. Thank you for this post!

Linda

roopak desai  |  25 Apr 2013  |  Reply

Excellent point…well said Jennifer. This quality is the most vital since you are fighting against
Your mind to ahow up for what you believe in and right thing to do!!

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