A while back a colleague’s comments encouraged me to revisit the book, The Road Less Traveled, by M. Scott Peck. I am very glad this happened because it resonated much differently with me twenty years later. I’ve decided to end the year sharing some excerpts from the book which I have found especially enlightening and helpful:
We need leaders to reclaim the positive leadership narrative and model responsible behavior. We need leaders in charge who genuinely care about other people and want to make the world a better place.
The leader of an organization always sets the tone. Never forget this fact. I am often slightly bemused when I hear a leader complain about the state of things in their organization. It’s almost as if they remove themselves from the equation. They wonder how things have devolved to this point as if it is some deep mystery when all they have to do is look in the mirror. Your people are a reflection of your hiring decisions; the quality of your meetings is directly related to how you lead them and model this behavior for others; missing deadlines is a reflection of what you are willing to tolerate in others and yourself; a lack of focus almost always starts at the top; teamwork only ever happens when the coach sets the expectations and creates the conditions for this to happen; optimistic or pessimistic cultures are usually a reflection of leader’s point of view; etc.
I find that one of the most recognizable traits of an effective leader is that they bring positive energy to a room. You can feel it the moment they walk through the door. I have been in banquet halls far from the entrance and felt the presence of certain people as they arrived. It’s almost as if a small electrical jolt works its way through the crowd. While most of us aren’t blessed with this type of “rock star” aura, we can certainly notice and work on the effect we have on others. You are either adding energy to the group dynamic or diminishing it. It really is this simple. Leaders must be a source of consistent positive energy if they want to get the most of out of their people.
There is alot of talk about compromise in the media lately especially as it pertains to our federal government. There is this general sense that if political leaders would just be reasonable then there is an easy pathway to finding common ground. While I am certainly a fan of win-win negotiations, I don’t always believe that compromise is the best course of action. Sometimes you have to stand on principle and do what you believe is right instead of what may be politically expedient. Courage can be a lonely place at times, but going against your core values/beliefs usually has much worse consequences. Some things should be non-negotiable.
Leaders cannot be low energy people – it is that simple. When you walk into a room the energy level should automatically pick-up. When you meet someone who is low energy your own positive energy should be infectious. Success at anything requires thoughtful action. You need to focus like a laser beam and plough forward despite the inevitable obstacles and distractions. When other people are saying “no” or this is too hard, you have to be able to say “yes” and encourage them on anyway. As with everything you need to lead by example.
A weakness I often see in leaders is a belief that their job is to supply all the answers. They tend to dominate discussions and almost always want to have the last word. The problem is that no matter how smart and capable you are, you will always be limited by your own thinking and life experience. In addition, if you create an environment where everyone looks to you for answers, then you will hinder the growth and development of your employees and enable mediocre effort (and commitment).
Unless you win the lottery or are born into it, wealth doesn’t just land in your lap. Passively pursuing success never works. Far too many people are waiting for their ship to come in and they haven’t even chartered a boat yet. You have to create the conditions for success for it to happen. And, it all starts with YOU and your willingness to believe in and bet on yourself.
It is always better to be proactive rather than reactive in life. Change is inevitable. If you try and fight it you will only end up resentful and suffer the consequences. Sometimes the signals are obvious that you need to make changes other times they are not. However, waiting for a crisis to force change is rarely a wise strategy.
As we start another week with political posturing around the debt ceiling it has become far too obvious how political considerations are trumping bipartisanship and what’s best for the country. For all intensive purposes this is a manufactured crisis. The government can’t afford not to raise the debt ceiling for many important reasons. In the past it has been done under presidents from both parties. Since it is a major election season next year, political leaders on both sides are using the issue as a hammer to beat up on their opposition – how sad, yet predictable.
The objective of a leader, especially a public figure, should be to bring people together and foster a dialogue that strives to bridge our differences and find areas agreement. The end result should be to tap into the greater good rather than pursuing a Win-Lose agenda.
A well functioning democracy requires the active participation of its citizenry. To be actively involved, one must take the time to become informed and make reasonable judgments as to who best represents their interests and is most qualified to fulfill the needs of their community, county, state and country.