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June 21, 2024

Leaders Are First And Last

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I’m blessed to know some really good leaders in my life, and in observing their behavior I’ve noticed an odd paradox. Sometimes the best way to lead is by being the first to go, and sometimes it’s by being the last to go.

At the foundation of this concept is that good leaders are of service. They’re willing to inconvenience themselves to do what’s required to serve those they lead.

On one hand, Mike Sherbakov is one of my best friends and best leaders that I know. Multiple times a year for the last decade he has organized social impact trips to build houses in Mexico. He’s the one standing alone at the very beginning of the fundraising process, making a bold statement and inviting people to join him. Few people have the courage to organize their own build but he does it time and again.

Then, once in Mexico and after the first day of grueling sun and hard work, we eat at an authentic taco restaurant. Every time Mike patiently helps everyone make sure that they’ve put in their order, and that they get their food, before he worries about himself. He’s always the last one to eat after everyone else has already been fed.

Another great leader I know is Alex Sheen, the founder of the nonprofit “because I said I would”. As he travels for his speaking engagements he organizes meetups so that he can connect with community members. There are times when he makes a reservation, shows up to the table first, and only a few of the people who he expected to come show up.

Then the next day after he delivers a speech to a school or business, he’s there to greet every last person that wants to meet him. He listens patiently to every story they have to share and gives them the space to receive his support.

And although there are many more that come to mind, the last great leader I want to highlight is my wife Irene. She has an incredible way of opening up with others and going first in being vulnerable. This then invites her friends (and sometimes strangers) to open up as well and talk about things they usually don’t.

At the same time, if someone is going through a tough time or invites her to be at something meaningful to them, she makes a huge effort to show up and is among the last to leave. It’s her way of being of service to the people she cares about, and it’s inspiring.

All that to say, there’s no one right thing to do as a leader. But there is a right way to lead, and that’s to be of service in whatever way the moment requires.

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