I was 20 years old and knew everything. Crazy Dave was 50 years old and knew nothing. We were on a job site in a local elementary school in the summer of 2003. I had been a plumber’s apprentice for a year and I already knew everything there was to know about plumbing. On this day, Crazy Dave, who received his nickname for being a little on the passionate side, asked me to look for a certain fitting in our job box. A fitting in this case was a small piece of copper tubing that we needed to run a water line. He was unsure if we had the fitting, but he wanted me to look anyway.
Dave could probably see that I was not very enthusiastic about looking through a large metal box filled with heavy tools, tool bags, hardware and all kinds of other junk for a 15-cent piece of metal that we could just go and get from the store really quick. I walked down the long silent hallway of the elementary school to the room where we were keeping all our supplies. I opened the box and nonchalantly pushed aside a few nuts and bolts. I then gently moved around a few of the heavy boxes and bags and peaked around them to see if a glimmer of copper in the bottom of the box would catch my eye, and I saw nothing. I wasn’t planning on seeing anything and I fully intended on reporting to Dave that he should call our boss and tell him to bring us the part we needed from the store. I shut the box and made my way back to Dave. I reported to him that we did not have the part and we would need to call it in.
Crazy Dave looked at me and with fire in his eyes, he began to march his 5-foot-tall stocky frame down the long hallway. He motioned to me with one wave of the arm, follow me! I followed behind him like a toddler that was in trouble with his parents. We got down to the room and I received a front row seat to why Crazy Dave received his nickname. Dave threw open the lid of our large metal job box. He reached in and began to throw 40 and 50 pound bags of tools and heavy duty power tools. I felt like I was in a cartoon where the character is throwing everything out of the toy chest into the air behind them. It seemed like he just kept pulling stuff out of the box. Pushing aside nuts, bolts and screws as they went flying. I just stood back holding my breath, hoping that he wouldn’t find the small copper fitting that I had confidently declared was not in the box.
Once all the throwing was done, Dave reached down into the box and pulled out the small piece of copper tubing that I was supposed to find. He held it up to my face and he said to me six words that I will never forget. He said, “You gotta have a want to.”
Dave taught me something about leadership that day. He taught me that if you want to be a leader in life you have got to want to get the job done. Many times, what separates leaders from followers, or those that excel and those that just get by, is the desire to get the job done. In life and in leadership, everything will not go the way you want it to. Organizational charts and roles and responsibilities will not be perfect or even functional at times. If you are a follower, you will sit back and say, “if this organizational chart was correct, I could really get my job done,” or, “If my role was more clearly defined, I could start leading.”
The fact of the matter is, a true leader leads despite the conditions. A true leader does not need a prominent position on the organizational chart to get the job done. A true leader leverages their influence and helps the other team members understand why it is in their best interest to move forward in the leader's desired direction. You can only do this if you have a “want to.” So, I will ask you today, do you have a want to?