We could all use more leadership.
That’s a loaded statement, so I’ll unpack it a bit.
First, here’s my attempt to define the kind of leadership that we can benefit from.
Making choices that may feel uncomfortable in the short-term but have long-term benefit for the individual and the organziation.
Second, I want to acknowledge that there’s a lot of leadership already happening. Every day, individuals and groups are doing things that are focused on the long-term, even though they create temporary discomfort. Those are fantastic actions building sustainable, healthy, vibrant organizations, poised for a dynamic and undefinable future.
Third, and finally, there are times when we choose the short-term, easier route, instead of the route that would create the healthier outcome.
You could take, for example, the way we respond to the “inputs” we get each day – the assignments, the phone calls, the voice mails, the emails… the list goes on, I’m sure. There’s a continuum for how we could manage this. At one end, we could put on blinders and say, “I’m working on this one thing unless lightning strikes me.” At the other end, we could bounce from request to request, responding to the most recent, regardless of importance.
It’s a theoretical continuum, but even so, if we’re in error, I think I know which way we err. We tend to “bounce” more often than we should. There’s a lot of incoming traffic, and we naturally get distracted.
“Leadership” calls on us to do something that is not natural. Something that isn’t comfortable. Rather than responding to the urgent because it pops up, the definition I’ve proposed would ask you to pursue what’s important, even if it feels uncomfortable.
Here’s an exercise I’ll be doing, and I invite you to join me. When I start work on something, I’m going to ask “urgent or important?” In fact, I’ve made a sticky note that goes on my monitor to remind me. Given all the responsibilities I have – my mission, colleagues, customers, my boss… is this the most important thing I can be working on right now?
If it is, I’ll proceed. If it’s not, I’ll do something else, something more important.