Crayons

The true colors of leadership

Many years ago, when I was in grade school, I used to love the week before school started. My mother would take me and my sister to purchase school supplies.

I remember asking my mother to purchase the big 64 Crayola box with the sharpener on the side of the box. The interesting phenomenon about this box of Crayolas was it contained 64 different colors of crayons but, in reality, you only used about six or seven colors.

Your favorite colors dwindled down, and you tried to make them last by sharpening your favorite crayons while there remained many unused colors. The significance of this story will make sense shortly.

Recently, I was working out with a friend and we usually have a philosophical discussion between workouts regarding the salient topics of the day. This day was no different.

I was waxing eloquently about people not achieving their purpose and remaining in a state of mediocrity. My friend looked at me quizzically saying, “Ed, maybe they are using all of their three colors, and you are accustomed to using multiple colors.”

His simplicity of this analysis was brilliant. Most people only are concerned with a certain finite number of colors in their ideological coloring box.

In a sense, these individuals don’t know, or even necessarily care, what they don’t know. Therefore, dissension occurs when we try to engage, motivate, cajole or illuminate others to start using other colors in their respective coloring boxes.

Often, frustration ensues when other people lack the understanding of what we are trying to accomplish. We think it’s rather intuitive to offer new ways to use the figuratively unused Crayolas and the other person might not comprehend the need to expand their repertoire.

To understand this phenomenon, I came across an interesting article titled, “Leadership Is About Enabling the Full Potential in Others” penned by Glenn Llopis. I would like to highlight Llopis’ significant points on how to add to your leadership domain.

Llopis stated, “The 21st-century leader must have the ability to make the most out of every situation. They are courageous and not afraid to challenge the status quo and push the boundaries to make things better. Because of these qualities and many others, the best leaders know how to get the most out of people; they enable the full potential in others.”

Llopis asserted, “Success as a leader is a by-product of the leaders and mentors we associate with throughout our careers.”

Therefore, it’s incumbent we mentor and associate with others to move them to new levels of excellence and success. In a sense, we are modelling the way for others to utilize other colors in their box of Crayolas.

Here are just a few things leaders do to enable an employee’s full potential, said Llopis:

  • Encourage them to think and act in ways that come most naturally to them.
  • Develop their decision-making abilities.
  • Expand their performance threshold. Llopis argued great leaders keep close tabs on how much each employee can handle.
  • Enabling their full potential means working on the areas that require further development.
  • Strengthen potential by surrounding it with those even stronger. Leaders must surround potential with stronger and complementary pieces.
  • Paradoxically, most of us are comfortable with our own limited use of Crayolas. In our mind, we think we are successful and tune out the need to use other crayons.

The real issue emanates in our ability to see beyond our limited thinking and engage our potential. You might find in the end, by utilizing all the colors in your figurative Crayola box, your tapestry of colors expands geometrically, and beautiful unforeseen art emerges.

Dr. Edward Piatt, Ed.D., is a retired manager from the state of Illinois with 32 years of frontline leadership experience. He is an adjunct professor of business at Olivet Nazarene University. Contact him at epiatt@olivet.edu.

Comments are closed.