Guest Blogger: Congressman Bradley Byrne, 1st District Alabama
Throughout my time in public service, people often ask me what advice I would share with people who want to serve their communities one day, so I thought coming up with advice for this column would be pretty simple.
First, I thought I could highlight a particular person who has greatly impacted my life, but I quickly realized there are far too many people to pick just one. So, I decided to focus on one particular experience that I thought defined my leadership development. Again, it was impossible to settle on just one single experience.
I quickly realized that my views on leadership cannot be boiled down to a single person or experience. Like so much in life, my views on leadership cannot be viewed in a vacuum, but must instead be reflected in the culmination of my experiences to this point.
All that said, I want to share three pieces of leadership advice I have learned throughout my life. These experiences include everything from my time as a lawyer in Mobile to my service in the United States House of Representatives to my role as a husband and father of four.
I hope that these three leadership principles and accompanying personal examples can help guide you regardless of where you are in life or in your career path.
1.) Leaders Trust Their Team
It may be cliché to say, but any leader is only as good as the people around them.
Just having a team is not enough. You have to be able to trust them. Serving in the Alabama State Senate, I had just a single secretary, who I shared with another state senator, so I was used to tackling many projects myself. Well, upon coming to Congress, I realized that I not only could not, but that I should not, try to do everything myself. I quickly put trust in the people around me, and it has proven to be an incredibly successful model.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with asking for help and surrounding yourself with talented people who can help you achieve your goals. I honestly believe I have the most talented staff on Capitol Hill and an equally talented team working for me back in Alabama. I depend on my staff all the time, whether it is briefing me on a legislative priority or arranging my complicated schedule. I could never achieve all of my goals in Congress without a first rate team around me.
2.) Leaders Listen
Too many of us today spend all our time talking when we should be listening. Stopping to listen to the ideas and concerns of others allows you to be better at whatever it is you are doing.
I quickly picked up on the importance of listening in my marriage and as a father. As a spouse, you must listen to and understand the interests, concerns, and motivations of your partner. And, as a parent, it is always easy to just lecture our children or tell them how to live their lives. But instead of always being the one talking, I found, and continue to find, great value in listening to my kids to understand where they are coming from.
This is why I place such a high value on holding town hall meetings as a Member of Congress. I have held over 85 in-person town hall meetings since being elected to Congress, and that number goes over 100 if you include telephone and online town halls. I always use these events as a way to just listen to what is on the minds of people in our area.
To be clear, listening does not mean that you always have to agree with the other person or change your opinion. Sometimes I agree with what the individuals say and sometimes I disagree, but that is the value in listening. Whether in my marriage or from my constituents, it is always valuable to hear different perspectives on any issues or topic before making a decision. At least you will have a wider range of understanding.
3.) Leaders Never Give Up
July 13, 2010 was a really difficult night for me. It was the night I lost the runoff in the Republican primary to be the next Governor of Alabama. I had poured so much into that grueling campaign, but, most importantly, I truly believed we could have made a really positive impact on our state. But, it was not to be.
It would have been easy to let that moment define the rest of my career. I could have given up on public service altogether. Honestly, the thought crossed my mind.
Then, in May of 2013, Congressman Jo Bonner announced that he was resigning from the U.S. House of Representatives. I once again had the chance to serve the state and people that I love. After prayer and talking with my family, I jumped at the opportunity and won the seat later that year.
The message here is to never let the fact that one door closes force you to give up on your passion. The question is never whether or not you will experience some level of setback or failure, because every leader will. The real question is how you respond and overcome the setback. That is what will define you.
So, those are the important pieces of advice I have found through my leadership experience. While we all have our own leadership styles and leadership roles, I believe this advice transcends scenarios and can translate to any leadership journey.