Welcome to 2011. This year will require the kind of leadership skills that only a few will be willing to invest in. Most people who call themselves leaders are really just managers who happen to be the highest ranking person – a leader by default. But, if you really want to be the leader, you’ve got to be willing to take the “road less traveled.” The path to being a great leader is, by the way, the same path as leading your company to great success. It’s not always easy, but it is always reasonable. It’s called the “road less traveled” because not everyone can or will choose it.
Your leadership skills will need to be about inspiring people to go where they didn’t think they could go, not about shoving them. You’ll need to find ways to remove any obstacles, not complain about them. Obviously, the world we live in is changing; it feels like change is happening quicker and closer to home. For example, the current economy is volatile and uncertain. As the leader, your job is to show that not only is the current economy just a bunch of numbers, it’s actually something to get excited about. You can actually show your people how to embrace this economy. I know that sounds impossible, but that is exactly what a great leader does. That is exactly what I’m talking about when I say go down the road less traveled. You’re making the tough choices. But in doing so, you’re choosing to respond to the changing economy. It’s just information – like any other information you can assess and respond to.
Why wouldn’t someone take the road less traveled? Fear. Fear of screwing up. It’s not the act of making a change that can paralyze, so much as the anticipated fallout, the dreaded aftermath, or the dire consequences change might bring. How many times have you prayed: Oh dear God, don’t let me be wrong. So, you play it safe. But, safe doesn’t make new sales, it doesn’t make good investments, and it certainly doesn’t make a successful, exciting working environment. So, you get mad at your people, your bank, and the government too for good measure! And here’s where things really start to unravel: you try to protect yourself by blaming others for where you are right now. You have now graduated and earned your degree from MSU – Making Stuff Up!
If I do something different, I might fail and if I fail, I might lose everything. That’s true. But it’s also true that you might succeed. And if you do fail the first time, you learn from that and you start again. When you fail, you gain valuable information – information you won’t gain if you’re afraid to try. You can’t take the road less traveled if you have a fear of being wrong. If your need to be right is greater than your need to succeed, the odds are you will not succeed in business. If you can’t muster the courage to admit when you’ve been wrong, you won’t ever realize or get the chance to learn this first easy step: stop doing what doesn’t work and do something different. If something is not working, stop it. Seriously, it’s really that simple and it starts with being able to admit when you’re wrong.
You won’t take the road less traveled if you fear rejection by your friends, business associates, or your family. Great leaders know they have to make tough choices, but they have confidence that they are moving in the right direction.
You won’t take the road less traveled if you don’t like being emotionally uncomfortable. Just like eating with your other hand, at first it was uncomfortable and slowly but surely we get used to it.
Here are some actions I recommend for you in 2011:
First, change is continuous. Help your people understand that change is a tool. Continue asking how change can fulfill your business needs. Change is a choice in how we carry out the organizational purpose, i.e., the purpose of total customer satisfaction. The only difference between you and anyone else is how you respond to change.
Secondly, it’s okay to make mistakes as long as people learn from them. Great leaders are not great because they’ve made more mistakes, they’re great because they learned from those mistakes. It’s okay to make mistakes as long as people share their mistake with everyone else in the organization. This requisite is founded on a belief that anyone can learn from everyone else’s mistakes and thus not have to repeat them.
Third is feed your mind good stuff. Stop reading negative information, listening to negative people or watching cable network news. You are loading up with fear. Replace that information with studies about the future or an improved you. You’ll soon emerge as a solution provider instead of a Chicken Little.
Fourth is act on the items you wrote down for your goals of 2011. Ask what can I do today to move me closer to the goal? Start with a small step. Take action daily.
Fifth is exercising your gratitude muscle. Gratefulness is a muscle, not just a feeling. You need to work it daily. Every morning, give thanks to two people that helped you yesterday and one person that will assist you today. This will focus your mind on what you have, and you’ll soon realize how much you have and that you are not alone.
Confidence is rocket fuel for your business life. Confident people have a come-this-way charisma that generates a following. When you possess total confidence you are willing to take risks. When you have it, you propel yourself and your team forward on the road less traveled or forward into the future.
Embrace the road less traveled. Keep HOPE alive and well in all you do, say and touch. The only time you should talk about the slow economy is with your competition down the street. Let them believe that the market is bad if they so choose. However, if you want people to feel good when they are in your house, you must practice and be an expert of the habit of positive energy. So, take charge and build a strong positive belief in your people and yourself.