Leadership at its core is about making progress toward an intended destination — a destination that is new and different, and someplace you’ve never been before.
You’re not leading if you’re repeating the same thing over and over again. If you’re going to lead yourself and others, you must understand that uncertainty, risks, and surprises will meet you along the way. Too many people want the glory of leadership, without factoring in the guts required to begin the journey. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been faced with a situation and had no idea how it was going to work out. The bigger the organization, and the higher you go, the more complex the challenges you’re going to face. The moment when the challenge becomes real, you might not know how it’s all going to work out…but, with a solid framework, a strong team, and the courage to move forward, you will overcome whatever you are facing.
Here are some of the ideas that have helped me move forward when the path wasn’t clear:
1. Go back to your passion story.
Why are you doing what you’re doing in the first place? Do you still believe what prompted you to begin? Can you still visualize where you want to be, and what you want to accomplish? This is your foundation, and it needs to be strong.
2. Build a framework.
When you can’t be sure about what’s ahead, you have to let go of the security of a destination and lean into the strength of a proven framework. This will ensure you are aligned and integrated with your thinking.
3. Find a mentor.
More than 70% of Fortune 500 companies have mentoring programs. Why? These successful companies have realized that investing in leadership capability pays off in performance, productivity and innovation (Centre for Workplace Leadership 2016). God designed us to live in community with each other. You need an outsider’s perspective to ensure you’re thinking clearly and are well aware of your blind spots along the way.
4. Give yourself permission to fail.
The pressure to get it right the first time can be so great that it can paralyze you. To some, failure feels like an ending, but I believe that failure is the catalyst of change and learning. Winston Churchill once said, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” It is all about changing your mindset, and seeing failure as an opportunity for new levels of excellence.
5. Remember to have fun.
Life and leadership shouldn’t be serious and intense all the time. According to the BrightHR study, 62% of employees who took no sick days in the previous 3 months said they have fun at work. More revealing, 58% of those who took 11-plus sick days reported not having fun at work. This indicates that people are happier and more productive when they have fun in the workplace. This can improve your overall health and view of life!
You can move forward even when the path isn’t clear. Sometimes, you have to work yourself up and leap. The great paradox is: the biggest risk is not in moving forward; it’s just staying still.