The struggle is part of the journey. I’ve always been a fan of the John Adams quote, “People and nations are forged in the fires of adversity.” Collectively and individually, we learn little about ourselves when things are going well. In fact, we tend to take our success for granted. The more comfort and […]
Sometimes there are no easy answers. In life, we’re all looking for the silver bullet. The one thing that will make everything else easier or solvable. However, life is more complicated than that. Rarely are there simple solutions to complex problems. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t strive for simple solutions wherever we can, but it […]
High impact leaders focus on doing the right things well and consistently live up to their commitments especially when it is hard. You don’t ever have to worry about their personal behavior or professional discipline.
If you are a CEO, the time to lead is now! It is a fact of life that the only constant in the world is change. You cannot resist the future you must only embrace it. In addition, as we’ve seen lately, the present can change course quickly. This is why adaptability is such an […]
What are the traits of high-performing leaders? Because of my line of work, I am fortunate to spend time with many successful people and study and research the topic even more. One theme that runs through of my experience/research is that financial success (while important) is not the primary driver of an individual business leader’s […]
Leadership is an interesting topic. We all seem to think we know what it is and can identify when it’s lacking, but often have different definitions of what it means. It gets even more challenging when you have different sides with competing agendas/world views clashing with one another. Recent events in Baltimore have put a […]
I was talking to my son the other day about his schoolwork and some frustrations he was having. He is a good kid and is in all honors classes. I have noticed though, as the years go on, that school which was once relatively easy and fun for him has become much more of a chore. While not commenting on the varying degrees of teacher quality we have encountered along the way (which is troubling), I believe he is going through something we all go through in life. Rarely is our individual curve always upward sloping and everything comes easy for us. Sure, some people are seemingly blessed in certain aspects of life, but for the most part we all hit periods of frustration, disappointment, and/or low motivation. When you have a passion or care about something it is much easier to marshal the energy required to work through the rough patches. When it is something you have to do rather than want to do, it isn’t always so easy.
During the conversation with my son, we discussed four things that help you get through these difficult periods: Ability, Humility, Effort and Attitude:
There is a famous saying that, “if you aren’t moving forward, then you are heading backwards.” I completely agree. There is no such thing as standing still in life, Time moves forwards regardless. Too many of us spend too much energy getting stuck in our present circumstances or being held back by our past. There is nothing we can do about what has already happened. All we can do is learn from it and strive to become a better person in the process. In terms of the here and now, your attitude and efforts should always be geared towards positive ends. Leave the negativity to others. My mom often used to say, “Make the best of it, whatever “it” is.” As usual, her wisdom is a beacon of light that shines through my life.
Life rewards persistence. Too many people give up too soon and never get to fully realize their potential or dreams. Success isn’t just about luck or good fortune. It is more about focus, hard work, determination and resolve. Everyone’s life journey has bumps along the way. Keep pressing forward even when it’s hard. Obstacles strewn along our path are just opportunities to further build our character. They also test how much we truly want something. If success always came easily then it really wouldn’t mean anything.
I am in the process of reading Gordon Livingston’s great new book, The Thing you Think You Cannot Do, and as usual he delivers many useful tidbits of helpful information and a wise perspective. In one chapter, he talks about the importance of asking the question, “What next?” While his clinical therapy patients may often be dealing with much more significant challenges than my clients, as human beings we all have things that hold us back and inhibit our positive momentum. It’s easy to get mired in the past or caught up with the urgency of managing now. Many of us are far too quick to embrace the role of victim and tell our sad stories to anyone who will listen. We end up creating negative energy which hinders our ability to move on and create a positive future. I’m not saying we don’t have to make peace with what has happened, but the best way to get out of hole is not to keep digging deeper but to climb out.
Leadership can be hard, challenging and humbling, but it should also be fun and rewarding. It should give you energy not just take it. If you are in a constant state of stress and/or unhappiness, you should really ask yourself what’s wrong with what you are doing. It is a genuine privilege to lead others. In almost all cases, assuming the mantle of leadership is a choice. Rarely is it forced upon you and even when it is you should learn to embrace the opportunity because the alternative makes no sense.
It’s amazing how many of us stress over little things. It’s almost as if we believe the world exists to make us happy and every small obstacle becomes a major annoyance. We lose our sense of proportion and forget how fortunate we truly are that petty issues can even occupy our attention. It’s important not to forget that a large percentage of the world still struggles with basic life/survival issues.
When you opt to assume a leadership role you need to put yourself out there. Like it or not, you job requires ongoing personal and professional development under the gaze of various levels of public scrutiny. Most people shy away from the spotlight but leaders don’t have that choice. You need become comfortable with being uncomfortable. The good news is that courage is often rewarded in life. It’s probably why you have your leadership role in the first place.
I don’t know when the shift started to happen in my lifetime, but we have changed from a nation that gets results to one that seems to accept a lack of performance and then bemoans our lack of progress. You see evidence of this everywhere you turn: 1) structural economic issues that never get fully addressed; 2) traffic problems that never get solved; 3) infrastructure needs that are constantly put off until there is a crisis; 4) schools that turn out less than stellar results; 5) a widening gap between the wealthy and everyone else; 6) a health care system that is broken and too costly to maintain; and 7) wars that are started but never end, etc. Each group of leaders claims they are doing their best given the circumstances and/or blames their opponents for not doing their part. They then have the gall to rant on about our “exceptionalism.” It is a vicious non-productive and self-deluding cycle.
Leaders should never surround themselves with people who only tell them what they want to hear. Even though it’s tempting to exist in a positive feedback bubble, you need to fight this inclination and encourage independent thinking by others. If you are always the smartest person in the room and your opinions are largely left unchallenged then something is wrong. Sometimes the truth hurts, but it’s better to deal with reality than ignore it. In addition, it’s been proven that a group regularly makes better decisions than any one individual.
2009-2011 has been a difficult period for many people I know and care about. It’s almost as if the heavens opened up and terrible storm decided to descend on a vast number of unsuspecting people. In many cases, the signs may have been there, but none of us expected the difficulty it to be so prolonged and discouraging. They say “what doesn’t kill us only makes us stronger.” I’m not sure I agree with this point of view. Not every challenge leads to strength; sometimes it just forces us to alter our perspective. Change doesn’t always mean growth or better, it often just means different. In addition, certain wounds don’t always heal as we would like them to, but they heal nonetheless – time will see to this.
The speed of business has increased dramatically these days. Markets no longer carry the complacent. In this environment, leaders must operate under a 5-7 year arc and then they need to completely reinvent themselves and their companies. If there is some game changing event or circumstance, the pace of this change may even need to accelerate.
One of the biggest dangers to success is comfort. I see it all the time. On the way up, people have an edge. They push themselves towards goals achievement. Obstacles are seen as inconveniences that simply need to be overcome. Motivation is never an issue. Energy seems boundless. Leadership focus is laser-like and distractions are managed accordingly. Then success happens and it all changes…
While there is nothing wrong with enjoying your success or happiness, you must be careful about resting on your laurels for too long. What got you here won’t necessarily continue to propel you forward or guarantee continued success.
There is nothing wrong with having moments of comfort and predictability in our lives. However, we must also learn to become more comfortable with being uncomfortable. In fact, we should seek out things that push us to our limits and challenge our preconceived notions of what’s possible.
A leader is supposed to see things others don’t see. He/she is required to challenge existing systems, processes and solutions to find improvements. The future is created by those who make it not by those who look to the past or solely embrace the present as a means to achieve progress.