Indulge me for a moment and try to visualize a typical leader.

Maybe you’ve been lucky and have a choice of great leaders to bring to the forefront of your mind. Many of you haven’t been so fortunate.

You’re likely picturing someone who’s a huge presence — height and a bit of bulk helps here — someone forthright, with a booming voice, a force of nature. Someone with power and status; someone who’s fought tooth and nail to gain their position, trampling on several heads on the way up the ladder. Someone who’s going to pull that ladder up behind them to ensure that no one else can usurp their place. Someone born to lead.

What you haven’t pictured — and I’d happily put money on this — is a 5’ foot 4” farmer who weighed no more than 140 pounds soaking wet.

Yet that’s an accurate description of the person who taught me a fundamental leadership lesson, a lesson that I’m going to pass on to you in a moment.

Meet Alfred, my grandfather. He wasn’t “born” to lead. There was nothing outwardly heroic about him. He won no medals, fought no wars. In fact, he arrived in New York City ready and willing to enlist in the “war to end all wars” on the very day armistice was declared.

Nevertheless, this man, embodied so many of the key characteristics that you, as a leader, need to cultivate.

Quiet and unassuming, he dealt with any storm (literal or metaphorical) that came his way. He was a hard worker and a life-long learner. He didn’t measure his worth by how much money he had, by status or success, or by what others thought of him. He measured his worth in a job well done. He showed me the importance of patriotism, of developing a strong work ethic, of striving to build and maintain lasting relationships. He proved time and again the power of listening and of humility.

But above all, he taught me the importance of being “all in”.

What does it mean to be “all in”?

Back in the 1960s, my grandfather had traded farming for a job as a construction superintendent, and I’d often join him for some valuable work experience. We had a comfortable routine but every now and then my grandfather would look at me before we began our day’s work and ask:

“Are you in?”

That was my signal. I knew that this was going to be a tougher-than-usual job — perhaps longer hours than we were used to, or a more physically demanding project. Either way, it was going to test my limits.

And before starting, my grandfather needed to know if I was all in, if I was committed, if I was prepared to see the job through. Because, as far as he was concerned, once you started, you were there until the bitter end. No ifs, buts or, maybes. No walking away when things got hard or success seemed impossible.

“All in” leadership.

“Are you in?” is the key question for any leader. You’ll need to ask it of your team and — even more importantly — you’ll need to ask it of yourself, many times over throughout your career. It’s the cornerstone of your leadership. Take it away and all of the courage, passion, and skill you bring to the table are worthless. Because you will hit those days when you’re still working long after you should have been heading home. You’ll come across projects when everything goes wrong, people let you down, and success feels like it’s moving constantly out of reach.

If you’re “all in”, if you’ve made a promise to see things through, none of that matters. You’ll be able to draw upon all of the other leadership qualities you’ve been cultivating to keep your promise. And the pride you’ll feel when you do will be immense!

The commitment of “all in” underpins every other aspect of leadership — and it’s the central theme for my new book too. How could it not be?

Are you “all in”?

For my grandfather, leadership wasn’t something that you leave behind on the construction site after you clock off for the day, and it wasn’t something confined to folks with fancy titles or C-suite offices — it was how he lived his life. He truly was “all in” in every sense possible.

Now I’m asking you if you’re ready for the “all in” challenge…

I know I am. And for me, a key part of that is sharing the knowledge I’ve gained during my own 50(ish) years of leadership experience, from the lessons my grandfather taught me, to my time in the U.S Navy Seabes, to my years spent in the C-suite.

A good leader doesn’t hoist that ladder up behind them when they reach the top — they lower it down so that others can rise with them. They give them the tools to climb their own ladders. A good leader knows when it’s time to lead and when it’s time to follow and they encourage and empower those who follow them to become leaders too.

In fact, being a good leader is far more about what you give away than the influence you hoard. My book is my attempt to live up to that standard.

But it’s not just about teaching you how to reach and maintain a position in the executive suite — it’s about how to be a genuine leader in every aspect of your life, no matter your job title, your industry, or your position. It’s about breaking down the common misconceptions about what a “true leader” looks like, sounds like, and acts like. It’s about proving that the most effective leaders can (and do) lead with integrity, heart, and commitment.

And it’s about making sure you’re “all in”.

I don’t want you to read through, tune out, and then carry on as you were. I want to go beyond the theory and give you the practical steps you need to start practicing each new skill as you come to it. I want you to take risks, and make tangible, meaningful changes in the way you do things. I want you to become a leader in every sense of the word, in work, and in life — not just in name only. Because when you do, when you decide that you’re “all in”, you can’t help but change lives, change your organization, and make the world a better place to be.

So here’s the question…

Are you all in?

Yes? Register your interest in my book and be one of the first to learn how to become an “all in” leader.

Al Schauer is the Founder of PointNorth Consulting. He offers coaching and mentoring to aspiring leaders committed to leading with character. His new book on values and doing the right thing in leadership will be available is coming soon. Sign up through the link below to receive updates on how you can purchase his book.

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