Be a better leader: be a fountain, not a drain

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Do you leave your team members feeling drained, or do you infuse them with new life and leave them feeling refreshed?

The former would be done by a drain, while the latter would be done by a fountain. Drain vs fountain. With one, water or other liquids run out, leaving something empty or dry; while with the other, water fills, wells up and causes an overflow.

Stop for a moment and think about physical drains and fountains.

When you Google ‘famous fountains’, search results include lists from BBC, HuffPost, CBS News, CNN Travel, Stuff. Stunning. Spectacular. These are just a few of the adjectives used to describe some of the fountains.

On the other hand, when you Google ‘famous drains’ the results are quite different. You neither get lists nor any indication of travelers flocking to see or experience drains.

When you consider a leader as either a drain or a fountain, you notice clear differences.

A drain is a leader who empties; taking away energy, morale, hope, stumping enthusiasm, and leaving others worse off than they were before. This is the leader whose default mode of operation is to point out what is not working or will not work, point out why things are worse than they seem – even when they aren’t – play the devil’s advocate in most meetings, and has a mainly negative outlook. A drain is a ‘taker’. Don’t be this type of leader.

A fountain on the other hand refreshes, brings hope, and leaves others better than they were before. This is the leader who balances accountability and realism with a healthy dose of positivity, encouragement to others, enthusiasm and generates good vibes. This leader is a breath of fresh air not just when things are going well, but even now when so many people are discouraged, fearful, stressed, depressed, and battling many health, financial and emotional challenges. A fountain is a ‘giver’. Be this type of leader.

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

What practical steps can you take to become a fountain?

Here are a few specific suggestions.

1. Take care of yourself. The popular saying is true: you cannot give what you don’t have. If you lead others from a place of emptiness, you will subtract from them and drain them. You, therefore, need to ensure you are taking care of yourself and are in good shape. This will give you the ability to lead others from a place of wellness, abundance and positivity, and add value to them.

2. Be a good listener. Listening is one of the most valuable gifts you can give to those you lead. You may not be in a position to do everything that is asked of you – and you should not even try – but listening without judging speaks volumes. Ask lots of questions and then listen. When your team feel heard, they will trust that you know them well enough and what’s going on, to lead with their interests at heart.

3. Empower your team. Support them in developing the skills and abilities they need to serve in their roles. Where applicable, give them the authority that goes with the responsibility you have given them.

4. Give helpful and encouraging feedback. A fountain is refreshing. Give your team members feedback in a manner that is helpful and makes them feel appreciated. Speak encouraging words to them.

As with famous fountains, when you choose to be a ‘fountain’ leader, people will be attracted to you for the beauty, refreshing and enjoyment you add to their lives. They will reciprocate by giving their best. A win for them, a win for you, and a win for the organization.

How else could you be a fountain?

Even the smallest act of caring for another person is like a drop of water – it will make ripples throughout the entire pond.”
Jessy and Bryan Matteo

Picture credit: Lysander Lotter Homan (@solarframe) | Unsplash Photo 

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