Leaders Think Long Term
When I was young, my grandfather talked to me about money—specifically, about what I could do with my paycheck. He told me that money came with responsibility and with a decision. He said that I could spend it all on getting things that I wanted today. Ironically, if I did that, I’d never really even be able to afford all the things I wanted today.
If I learned to live on less, I would learn to live well. Putting some money aside to invest, to save for the rainy day or an unexpected need would allow me someday to afford everything I wanted. Not only that, he said, but I would be able to do even more. I’d have opportunities that I wasn’t even aware of today. Most importantly, I’d be able to help other people.
What he was teaching me was that long-term was more important than short-term. My grandfather didn’t use the term “delayed gratification,” but that’s what he was talking about, and it’s a critical part of servant leadership.
Servant leaders think long-term.
Just like investing, a great leader is thinking about the long-term future of the team and of the organization.
Many leaders in many industries are focused on today’s numbers, today’s sales, this quarter’s earnings. And there are, sometimes, important reasons to do so. There may be a sale that we need to make this week. There could be a decision or a result that absolutely needs to be taken care of right now. That is certainly a reality in today’s fast-paced world. But if that is your only concern, then you’re not thinking like a servant leader, because our lives are not lived in days and weeks. We do not build businesses and communities and families on the scale of months or even years. We live our lives in lifetimes, and servant leaders understand this and plan for it. When we look back across a career and a lifetime, we will not judge it by weekly reports. We will ask if we made a difference over lifetimes, over the scope of entire businesses and industries. Did I influence a career? Did I raise a happy son or daughter? Was I a good spouse? Not, did I have a good quarter?
On your deathbed, do you want to look back on your life and think, “Yeah. Those quarterly results from Fall of 2019 looked great”? Of course not. Great leaders think long term. Learn how to escape the short-term trap.
Are you setting aside, as Tammi Spayde wisely put it, time and energy for the future? Are you taking the time you need to hire the right people? Not just filling an empty spot on the org-chart to get that off your checklist. Are you letting people take the time they need to get the proper training? Are you making sure to communicate plans in a way that makes sense? Are you investing your time in the future of your people?
Think about the time you spend the way my grandfather asked me to think about my paycheck. Are you spending it all on today’s efforts? Or is some of it focused on a better future for your team?
I hope you’ll join my panel for more thoughts on this important topic.