Dennis Dowdell has a fantastic story of starting from driving a school bus to learning and developing the skills needed leading a team of over 250,000 people worldwide. He’s been sharing a unique presentation of timeless principles for 40+ years to diversified cultures in more than 50 countries with different economic groups and spiritual backgrounds.
How did he do it? Even though on probation in college with very low grades, he didn’t want to sell. But he did want to solve problems. He found there were some basic principles he needed to apply to his life in order to pull himself out of what looked like a dismal future. In other words, he needed to focus on self-leadership before leading a team. The principles he applied to his life are more applicable today than most any other time in history with those that are pulling themselves out of economic difficulty. Each principle is one of action, but also of mindset and has the power to help you do the same if you apply them.
We will cover four principles important in leading a team that start with leading yourself. Be yourself, take responsibility, develop healthy habits and don’t compare. First, be yourself.
Principle One: Be Yourself
The principle of to be yourself is super important, especially in leading a team. All around us are those who are trying to be someone they aren’t. That someone could be a super salesperson, a public figure or an influencer on social media. After Dennis drove a school bus, he had a job selling nuts and bolts. He figured out he didn’t want to sell, but he loved to solve problems. Solving problems was something he had enjoyed as he had worked with the youth group at his church.
How could he apply what he loved to do with what he felt he was good at in crafting a successful career, especially when he didn’t like to sell? He started looking for opportunities where he could make a difference in people’s lives. When he found it, he started focusing on helping clients. If he had forced a sales approach, it would have communicated fake, imposter and unauthentic. With the importance of authenticity and trust in today’s world, it is imperative that we are true to ourselves in applying our personalities and style to what we do. Being real and authentic translated to trust for Dennis. It will for you too!
Principle Two: Take Responsibility
Taking responsibility applies to making good choices, equipping yourself for leading a team. Choices are free, consequences are not. Dennis started reading, especially drawn to the book, Tribal Leadership. What books are you reading and how are you growing personally? What courses are you taking and how do you spend the majority of your time? It takes time, commitment and study to not only be at the top of your game, but to stay at the top.
Developing your uniqueness is a process that will set yourself apart from the cookie-cutter clones all around you. As I’m reading Deep Work by Cal Newport, I am reminded to turn off the distractions and create time to focus, learn and create. We get so used to being constantly interrupted and if we can set aside moments to focus, our level of quality productivity will increase dramatically. It also has the potential to elevate us above our competition. (see: Proactive vs. Reactive)
Principle Three: Develop Healthy Habits
Dennis was put on college probation because of bad habits, just above totally failing out. He then decided he didn’t want to stay at his same level of failure. He needed to add some consistency to his life as far as values and healthy habits. When he bought into the first ground level of a new start-up in the early 1980’s, Herbalife, the growth was astronomical for the then-weight management product. He loved the company because it was making a difference in people’s lives and all he needed to do was find people to work. In its first five years, Herbalife was the fastest growing company in American History, but then they hit a snag in 1984. A lawsuit was filed against the company for making inflated claims about the efficacy of its products. Sales dropped 86% in two months.
Dennis had a choice. He could re-evaluate and restart or totally give up. He knew there were some constants. His purpose was the same, making a difference in people’s lives, just the strategies were a bit different. The leadership habits he had developed taking responsibility of his life carried him through to recover 80% of his losses in the first year. It took 4 years to fully recover, but he knew leaders rise up in chaos through much of his reading and experience. Leadership is not a position, but a mission in equipping others. (See: Healthy Mindsets)
Principle Four: Don't Compare
The focus of Dennis’ business is his team. He basically leads leaders and equips others to put himself out of a job. He knew that if he compared himself with others, that would only lead to despair. He trained five people to train 5-10 people. Those people then trained 5-10 people and his full team grew to over 250,000. This bought him freedom as he was still focusing on his first five within a multi-level marketing structure.
Everyone’s business plan and model is different. Some companies give you structure and a plan but most entrepreneurs are creating their own box with unique guidelines and a blueprint. Keeping the main thing the main thing with the focus on others and your main purpose is freeing and will pay off if you don’t quit. Being true to yourself is being authentic to your mission, your goals and others. This principle of leading a team has the potential to make a difference in your world of influence.
Focus on Making a Difference
I’m sure Dennis didn’t focus on being in over 50 countries when he started. He focused on making a difference in one person at a time. If we do the same with our unique personalities, taking responsibility, developing consistent good habits and comparing our work with what our potential is, we will find ourselves in a satisfying and productive career that has the potential to change lives, also one person at a time.
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