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Two NHL players showed me how important it is for leaders to treat everyone with kindness, patience and respect

I sat in the restaurant at arm’s length from their breakfast table, watching the entire encounter transpire.

I was encouraged. I was appalled.

One got it. One didn’t.

Randy Carlyle got it. The other former Winnipeg Jet—who shall remain nameless—didn’t.

The Jets were catching an early morning flight to their next game. Randy and “Rude” were enjoying a quiet breakfast together when a fan approached their table. The man, who was from northern Manitoba, interrupted their meal, asked a few questions about the team and tried to interact with both players as any passionate fan would.

A gracious ambassador for the Jets, Randy responded politely even though you could tell that he really didn’t want to have to deal with fans right now. He understood that being available to them is part of the job when you’re an NHL player. Rude, on the other hand, was just that: he turned his back to the man and ignored him. Didn’t say a word to the guy. At the time, he was a star player and the focus of this fan’s attention.

Randy saved the day and redeemed the encounter by being friendly, gracious and ambassadorial.

The fan left. Then Rude bailed while Randy picked up the cheque. I went over to Randy, commented on my observations and congratulated him on being a good ambassador for the hockey club. 

What a contrast in how to deal with people. What a contrast in leadership.

Randy knew how to endear people, while the star player merely endured people.

Do you endear people, or do you endure them?

People who endear themselves to others choose to be gracious, kind, patient, respectful, empathetic and show genuine interest. This is only possible because they have also chosen humility. They recognize that they’re not inherently more important because of their stature, status, position or power. They recognize that everyone has value and is able to contribute in some fashion.

Those who merely endure others don’t understand that everyone has value and worth. They believe that somehow they’re more important than others and use their position and their power to get people to do what they want. The cause of this behaviour: selfishness and arrogance.

Good leaders, and good people, see value in others no matter who they are or what role they play in the organization. They choose to be gracious, kind, patient, respectful and empathetic toward everyone, regardless of their position or status. They also ask questions and listen.

Arrogant leaders, and arrogant people, simply endure and ignore other people or use them to get what they want. They may be able to turn on the charm, but ultimately it’s for self-gain.

Wholehearted leaders endear themselves to others because they’re genuinely interested in them. They believe that everyone has worth and somehow contributes to the corporate good. That doesn’t mean that they don’t know how to hold people accountable to a higher standard and motivate them to achieve more. These leaders are more powerful because the people they lead are engaged at a heart level. Team members feel a real connection to their leader because they know he or she cares about them.

Arrogant, self-centred leaders who merely endure and use people are very weak; they only have influence because of their position and authority. Ultimately, their leadership fails.

The choice is ours: will we choose humility, empathy, respect and genuine interest in people, and thereby endear ourselves to them? Or will we choose to be self-centred and arrogant and thereby simply endure others?

Good leaders endear themselves to people—not as the intended goal, but as the inevitable result of leading and living for others’ benefit. Their lives and their leadership are richer for it.

David MacLean empowers CEOs, entrepreneurs and executives to dare greatly in his role as chair of The Executive Committee (TEC) Canada. David also writes and speaks on Wholehearted Leadership: inspiring, encouraging and equipping leaders to harness their most valuable asset—their HEART. You can reach him at david@wholeheartedleaders.com