I have the distinct pleasure of working with some ordinary people who have tapped into their extraordinary leadership potential. Like me, these are people who come from humble starts and High challenges. The leadership opportunities that have faced many of these leaders whom I admire have been significant; yet they find a way to see the opportunity in the obstacle and make the most of mountainous challenges.
It has become a leadership habit of mine to ask questions of these leadership giants. The other day, I was sitting down with my coach, Ron Kitchens. I asked Ron (which I often do), “Ron, what are you learning about yourself and your leadership as your responsibility and influence expands?” He took a much shorter time than I anticipated to answer this very difficult question (***NOTE: great leaders rarely take a long time to answer these types of reflexive questions). Ron said to me “I’ve learned to DATE my strategy and MARRY my mission.” WHOA!
He continued to talk to me about how in this most recent season of leadership opportunities, most of the plans and strategies he had developed were changed, altered or eliminated by forces outside of his control. If he spent his leadership capital bemoaning the violation of his strategic expectation, the organization he shepards as well as the region that relies on his leadership would suffer the consequences of following a parked car.
The leadership analogy of ‘dating your strategy’ leaves the door open for breaking up and moving to a more positive fit. Unfortunately, many leaders have been rendered ineffective due to their inability to relinquish irrelevant strategies for the sake of the mission. Instead, they are stuck in ruts of conspiracy theories and self-absorbed pity parties that only focus on the idea that the universe would have the audacity to challenge and change THEIR strategy.
Transformational leaders understand that, like in interpersonal relationships, strategies and plans change and are subject to a break-up. However, WHY you do what you do (your mission) is a relationship that has true commitments. For these leaders, their core beliefs about the work they do everyday stay with them through sickness and health, ’til death do they part. Focusing on the mission with reckless abandon emancipates leaders to weather the ever changing dynamics of the storms that often characterizes leading for impact in the 21st century.
If you are a leader who has lost your ability to impact the dynamics in your sphere; the leadership challenge for you is to check your relationship status. Are you married to strategy and dating your mission? Or have you made the courageous choice to commit to what you believe, and leave the strategy up to flexibility? I am going to give my all to making sure that my leadership spouse remains my belief, and strategy is like a date in high school; it may seem like a good idea at the time, but now that you have attended the reunion of strategies….it’s all so much more clear!
Peace, blessings and marital bliss,