What is Holding You Back?
As a leader, I have long been impressed by men and women who lead at a higher level. Don’t assume all my heroes are CEOs and global leaders – I admire any leader who can consistently rally people to accomplish amazing things.
My fascination for these leaders probably grew out of my own frustration with the day-to-day challenges of leadership. I was in my early twenties and like many of you, I had been thrust into leadership with no instruction manual. My leadership training in the early days was a do-it-yourself project. Thankfully, I had some great leaders around me; but to watch, learn, and apply was my responsibility.
I quickly learned the fundamentals of leadership – casting vision, building teams, the importance of selection, the need to embody the values you espouse, and more. These and other basics of the profession are rather obvious, and with practice, most leaders can acquire a level of competency sufficient to keep them in the game. I was on that path. However, I still observed others who appeared to play a different game. The difference was like the gap between the weekend golfer and the tour pro – same game, but just barely.
What I stumbled upon was the concept of leadership effectiveness. Now, forty years later, I am still working on my effectiveness. Don’t misunderstand me, the fundamentals still matter, but the touring professionals are playing at another level for a reason.
So, what is holding you back? By that I mean, what are the things in your life and leadership limiting your impact and reducing your contribution to the world? Whatever your response, I call this quicksand.
For some leaders, their quicksand is comprised of busyness, distractions, and complexity. For others, it is a toxic mix that could include fear, fatigue, success, or aimlessness. Regardless, whatever is holding you back is your quicksand.
When you find yourself in quicksand, you only have three options:
1. Sink – This is the typical response when you decide the effort required is too great. You really can’t do it anymore. You quit. The problems with this approach are obvious, the most serious of the consequences – your hopes, dreams, and aspirations are suffocated by the quicksand. Your leadership influence is dead.
2. Swim – This is the most typical response I see from leaders around the world. The thinking goes something like this: “I am a leader and I am tough, resolute, and committed.” There is no quit in these leaders; they just keep going through the motions with little tangible progress or performance to show for their efforts. The most obvious shortcoming of this approach is it is exhausting and unsustainable.
3. Escape – This is the strategy of the Smart Leaders. They understand the quicksand all too well, but they have determined not to succumb to its debilitating power. For these women and men, the only sustainable decision is to escape, and then do everything within their power to stay out of the quagmire in the future.
How to Escape
Yes, but how do you escape? The answer lies in this simple idea:
Your impact is determined by your choices.
In my new book, Smart Leadership, we explore the four Smart Choices of the leaders who escape on a daily basis. Here’s a 50,000-foot view of these choices.
Smart Choice #1 Confront Reality
- Confront Reality to stay grounded in the truth and lead from a position of strength.
Smart Choice #2 Grow Capacity
- Grow capacity to meet the demands of the moment and the challenges of the future.
Smart Choice #3 Fuel Curiosity
- Fuel curiosity to maintain relevance and vitality in a changing world.
Smart Choice #4 Create Change
- Create change today to ensure a better tomorrow.
I am working with a former creative director at Marvel to turn some of my previous books into graphic novels. The process has been a blast! While brainstorming the superpowers our heroes and villains would possess, it hit me… Every human being has a superpower: the ability to make choices.
If you will exercise your superpower and make the smart choices I just outlined, I can promise you two things: You will never regret making these choices and your impact will increase.
For more information, see Smart Leadership: Four Simple Choices to Scale Your Impact.
Image Credit: Javier Allegue Barros