A leader’s primary job is to rally people around a common goal and convince them they are capable of much more than they think they are. People talk themselves out of success all the time. For the average person it is easy to identify obstacles and reasons why things can’t happen. As a result, we tend to lower the bar so we can make our goals achievable. Leaders should never lower the bar. They should expect more of themselves and their organizations and never settle for being average or second best.
It is surprising and frustrating how many business leaders simply make it up as they go along. Entrepreneurs typically start with a core idea and then if they are lucky have some initial success which requires them to actually build a business delivery model. Most of them then get bogged down in the day to day operation and fulfilling their product/service promise to their customers. Since most companies typically start out undercapitalized and growth eats cash, they also get caught up in basic financial issues which can be a major leadership distraction. Next thing they know they have a company on their hands and employees who expect to have a boss with a clue about the future and a strategic plan of action. It can all be very challenging and easy to fall into a survival rather than success mode.
70 years ago today our country was attacked at Pearl Harbor and the world was never the same. America, which hadn’t been subject to another country attacking our territory since The War of 1812, had to deal the terrible wave of war that would end up sweeping the globe and literally becoming a world war. While our political and military leaders had tried to prepare for this inevitability, we were still caught off guard and it took us about 2 years to get our footing and begin to turn the battle to our favor. We had to significantly scale up our industrial military industrial capacity and recruit millions of soldiers to sign up and join the fight which was taking places in multiple locations throughout the world. If you think about what was accomplished logistically in a relatively short period of time, it is quite impressive. Thank goodness we were up to the challenge.
It’s important never to get too full of yourself or expect good times and success to be never-ending. The laws of gravity apply in all aspects of life: what goes up must come down. No one lives at the peak for too long. I’ve always believed that it’s not just what happens when you are on top that matters, but also the grace with how you manage the inevitable changes and decline. Life is about cycles and reinvention. It is not a continuous upward sloping straight line.
Leadership and life is about reinvention. Who you are today will not be who you are tomorrow. There are too many variables beyond your realm of control. I sincerely hope that life is kind to you and that you won’t be given more to manage than you can handle. However, life also rewards those who are prepared. The market continues to value and reward those organizations that take calculated risks and proactively strive to create a successful future. People who live the most fulfilling lives are those willing to make changes and challenge conventional wisdom. If you stand still, others will pass you by and life will eventually run you over.
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.
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.