“This is why, I think, so many companies fail. Not because of challenges in the marketplace, but because of challenges on the inside.”
– Howard Schultz, Onward
There are many times that I have heard leaders point to things outside of their organizations as obstacles to growth and/or reasons for why efforts for success are failing.
The truth is, if it is solid and healthy on the inside, your organization can weather most storms that come from the outside. Easy? No. Survivable? Yes.
Flip that scenario around, and it’s a different story. If your organization is not healthy on the inside, it is doomed to be an obstacle to its own success. I’m sure you know of at least one example that proves this point.
As a leader, what are you doing to make your organization stronger?…
Over the years, I’ve come to realize that people approach the responsibility of leadership in many different ways. It’s not unlike the way some of us head into the crashing waves of the ocean.
I know that for me, if the water’s warm enough, I head right into the waters and as soon as I know I’m deep enough into the breakers I go head first and just get soaked. My wife Carol, on the other hand, prefers to simply let the water touch her toes, and after a while her ankles, and then eventually her knees and then perhaps 20 minutes later she may go fully under! (From where I see things, hers is the most painful way to experience it and yet, she hasn’t changed in the four decades that I’ve known her!)
I have found people embrace leadership in the same way. There are some that look carefully at the circumstances and then with little prodding make a dramatic leap head first into the opportunity or challenge that’s before them. They don’t care about the initial shock of pain or perceived responsibility, they just want to get on with it and get the job done….
Let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance.
Proverbs 1:5 NIV
If we are to lead others effectively, we need to be committed to be lifelong learners. When you limit your learning, you limit your growth in every area of life. But with so many avenues available for learning, leaders do not have the time to learn just for the sake of learning. Collecting random knowledge may allow you to beat the average person on Jeopardy, but it will not translate into seeing your unique God-given gifts emerge. Instead, the best leaders focus their learning on the things that set them apart.
I have had the opportunity to serve as an executive coach to a number of senior leaders in a number of different organizations. My goal was never to identify their weakest areas and turn them into strengths. If a visionary leader has a messy office, it is a waste of his or her time to focus their learning on how to excel at planning and organizing.
When weaknesses are so distracting that they threaten to derail a leader, they must be mitigated. However, it is a futile exercise to try to turn weaknesses into strengths. Instead, executive coaching is best focused on how a leader can take the strengths that have propelled them to success and develop, leverage and maximize those strengths….
One of the things that voracious learners do, is to find and follow closely trusted and proven leaders who are both older and younger, than themselves. (At this point, the second part is easy for me!)
It also helps when you find other leaders who have similar values, priorities and goals as you do. At times, I don’t mind reading things from folks that see the Kingdom differently, but when you get too much of that, you rarely move your own vision ahead.
Here’s a recent post from Tony Morgan, a younger leader who is ‘down to earth’; but creative and hungry to do the will of God. I found these questions were thoughtful, if not profound.
If you have been following the Passavant Leadership Group Blog, you’ve read that Leadership is Influence. You’ve learned that Great Leaders are constantly learning, and have to be bold. Sometimes you have to stand up against adversity, and other times you have to be patient while people align with new vision. Leaders must have followers and great leaders develop more leaders within their followers.
The general concept of a leader implies movement in a specific direction. If a leader is not moving, they are just standing in a crowd of people. Leaders have to move forward, but they can easily run out of gas and burn out if they are not prepared. Just like a car or airplane needs fuel to keep going, leaders cannot lead very far if they are running on fumes. You’ve got to keep your tank full in order to lead well for any extended amount of time.
The word voracious has been defined as “devouring in great quantities.” We have all met voracious eaters—people who devour food in great quantities. You may have one living in your house. A voracious learner is one who devours knowledge and wisdom in great quantities.
“Let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance.”
Proverbs 1:5 (NIV)
It is so easy to get sidetracked and replace learning with entertainment. I’ve been watching a show on the Discovery Channel, called Gold Rush, about a bunch of guys who dig dirt in Alaska, run it through a “wash plant,” and hope to capture some gold from the dirt. Every episode is the same: “Let’s get some more dirt.”—“Good idea, but the wash plant is broken.”—“Let’s fix it and maybe we’ll find some gold.”—“Yeah that would be great.”
There are hundreds, if not thousands of shows like Gold Rush on TV. I don’t watch it to learn something; I am never going to move to Alaska to become a gold miner. I watch it just to be entertained. But a leader must ask, “What percentage of my available time is spent pursuing entertainment?” If that percentage is too high it will definitely sidetrack you from being a lifelong voracious learner….