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Will you take the heat?


A few weeks ago, a colleague of mine and I met for coffee. He shared with me that he had just gotten back from a work trip where he traveled out of state for a speaking engagement. He too, speaks on leadership topics and was recently the keynote speaker at an event. With a funny but modest expression he said, “Sometimes, I go off script during my workshops and this time I think it worked great.”


He asked me, “When you speak, do you use a Power Point?” I said, “Ya, most of the time, unless I know in advance there won’t have a projector. Why do you ask?” He said, “During  my keynote speech, someone raised their hand so I stopped to answer their question. I don’t remember exactly their question but I do remember my response. I told them that leadership is a lot like a screen projector. I turned the projector around so its bright light was now facing towards the audience. I then asked them to look around the room and notice everything the light touched. I paused a moment then asked, ‘Who is taking the heat that radiates from the backside of this projector?’ They all pointed at me. I said, ‘You’re right! This is how leadership is supposed to be. When I point the projector light at all of you, that symbolizes my team. As a leader, it is my responsibility to take the heat, good or bad. As a leader, this is what I am signing up for. However, what happens is that people want the title, role and paycheck of a leader, but they don’t want the responsibilities that come with the position. So instead, they turn the projector around so that the heat is facing their people and the spotlight is on them. The moral of the story is, if you truly want to be a leader, beyond your job title, you must shine the light on your people and be willing to take heat and responsibility for the results.’”


*insert mic drop


As I sat awestruck by this story, it made me think a lot about leadership especially my own. I thought back to every team I had ever led and asked myself the very question, “At that time, was I willing to take the heat for my people?” To be honest, my answer is only “sometimes” and this analogy gave me a whole new outlook on leadership.


As you go about this week, I encourage you to be thinking about this brilliant analogy that my colleague came up with. Ask yourself, how does it pertain to me as a leader or teams that I am a part of. If you are a leader and want to talk through some leadership challenges you face, I would love to chat with you. Together, we can refine your leadership skills and make you a leader that not only shines the light on others, but a leader that others want to follow.


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