- Brian Dodd
What is the most important ability for a leader to have? Is it communication skills? Conflict management? Team building? Vision casting and/or construction? Hard decisions? Fiscal responsibility? What about something as complex as succession? All of these are important, even vital, but they are not the most important ability for a leader to have. The most important ability for a leader to have is ... availability. I was reminded of this leadership truth in the May 5 edition of Sports Illustrated. In an article written by Brian Cazeneuve on professional hockey players playing through pain, I gleaned the following nine leadership lessons about available leaders: 1. Available leaders learn to pay a high price early in life. Detroit Red Wings general manager Ken Holland says, “Kids who play hockey grow up carrying their own bags. Their feet freeze. They’re not pampered. There’s no special treatment. They owe the game; the game owes them nothing.” 2. Available leaders understand there are times you have to pay a higher price than at other times. Every church or business has busy seasons. You must pay a higher price during these times. Holland continues, “Two months of playoffs will age a player more than an 82-game regular season.” 3. Available leaders are willing to pay a physical price. The world is run by tired leaders. Ryan Getzlaf, captain of the Anaheim Ducks, said after taking a puck to the face, “Once we established my jaw wasn’t broken—if it was set in place and everything was OK—then I was going to be able to go.” 4. Available leaders know which prices are worth paying. Some prices are worth paying while others are not. Boston Bruins forward Milan Lucic said after slicing his foot, “It wasn’t so bad. A couple of stitches, but a long way from the heart.” 5. Available leaders have access to all their resources. Ottawa goalie Craig Anderson said, “Sometimes I stop the puck with my face because it’s the playoffs.” 6. Available leaders understand their responsibility to their teammates. Boston Bruins Gregory Campbell says, “If you’re not hurt that bad, you don’t want to be the guy laying on the ice. I’m not the most skilled guy. Playing in the playoffs is a privilege.” 7. Available leaders give their team a chance for long-term success. Anaheim Ducks head coach Bruce Boudreau says, “We have 14 forwards and seven defensemen. That’s a luxury this time of year, but it won’t last through the playoffs. It never does.” 8. Available leaders are resilient. Hollands concludes, “People talk about getting hot in the playoffs. Sometimes that just means staying healthy. Every round you lick your wounds, count who’s left, and it’s last team standing all over again.” 9. Available leaders often achieve ultimate success. In Wayne Gretzky’s biography, he tells of entering the victorious New York Islanders locker room after losing in his first trip to the Stanley Cup finals, “Guys were limping around with black eyes and bloody mouths. It looked more like a morgue in there than a champion’s locker room. And here we were perfectly fine and healthy. That’s why they won and we lost. "They took more punishment than we did. They sacrificed everything they had. And that’s when (Edmonton teammate) Kevin (Lowe) said something I’ll never forget. He said, ‘That’s how you win championships.’ ” The Oilers won five of the next seven Stanley Cups. Leaders must be available. Available leaders show up consistently. They are reliable and can be counted on. Available leaders are present and in the moment. Available leaders are a constant presence and an ever-present picture of the desired destination at which others should wish to arrive. Leaders, here is an important question for you to consider—Are you available?