A Leader’s Face

The story might have no historical basis; its point is potent.

Apparently, George Washington, then a general and a company of his men came riding to a river which could not be crossed except by horseback. A walking traveler stood one one bank. As Washington and his men rode up, the traveler surveyed the party (apparently without uniforms), looked at Washington and asked if the general would take him across the river on his horse. The general quickly said he would. The man rode behind him across the river then alighted. One of Washington’s men asked the hitchhiker, “Tell me, why’d you ask the general for a ride?” The traveler replied, “I did not know he was the general, I only looked for someone with a ‘yes’ face.”

Do you regularly wear a “yes” face? Why does it matter?

A “yes” face invites approach. Approachability is critical for any leader; it’s certainly indispensible for servant leadership. The face one wears should never communicate self-absorption or unconcern about individuals we lead.

A “yes” face tells family members, employees and teammates that you’re open (to ideas, suggestions, even correction). Openness is critical in any setting where communication is a must.

A “yes” face demonstrates the value placed on people, even ones who don’t “contribute” to our success, mission or cause (at least in our view). Inherent in any leader’s influence is valuing the individuals one leads.

Obviously, our faces are mostly a reflection of what’s going on inside of us. So, do I demonstrate that I’m approachable? Am I open to what I need to hear? How much value do I place on the individuals around me and within my leadership sphere?

What “mirrors” (people you trust whom you could ask, positive/negative responses you get, etc) would help you determine how much “yes” is in your face?