HOW DELIBERATE LEADERS HANDLE TOUGH TIMES
I work with amazing individuals whose leadership influence is almost tangible and certainly inspirational. These deliberate leaders know how to get things done.
Don’t be fooled though. These ordinary individuals who make extraordinary choices have struggled. And when the times are tough, they simply do something different than most people. And that is their secret.
What do these individuals know or do that is different from the status quo? Do they possess a magical quality? You bet. And they are as different as the people. Each leader will use the strongest elements of their nature to fight to win – or to survive the storm.
We must meet the challenge rather than wish it were not before us.
Deliberate Leaders Under Fire
I read an article in INC magazine a few years back by a veteran (Bill Murphy Jr) who decided to interview the man who used to be his Army Lieutenant. That young lieutenant was leading a team of soldiers in daily combat for eighty-two days straight. He was 26 at the time and was responsible for 40 soldiers. One could say he was a leader under fire.
The lieutenant, Dave Swanson gave several pointers on what it took to stay strong when watching and engaging in relentless battle. For today’s story, let’s look at three of them.
Face the Fear Head On
Lieutenant Swanson said controlling fear was critical. His troops needed to know that he could remain focused, even in the face of death. Most leaders I know are not required to face death in order to fulfill their mission, but I am sure they felt like it did.
Fear is a paralyzing force. You know the adage – fight or flight! People either get mad and lose control of themselves in the process, or they run. The passive approach to actually running is to procrastinate. (I must say, I have perfected this art myself!)
If you know that fear is a staple to the life of a leader, and that you will face it repeatedly, you have an edge up on your “enemy”. You can prepare to deal with fear in advance.
Whatever fear suggests is usually wrong. So, one plan of attack is to do the opposite.
I have found that we can manage the fear better when we realize that fear comes to perfect our strong intention and deliberate actions. Fear insists that we know ourselves and have a trust that we can make it through the problems at hand. It refines our energies and helps us prioritize. View the fear as a force that you will use to succeed.
I chose the quote above by the late William J. Brennan to remind us that we waste time wishing we didn’t have the problem. Fear, if handled properly, can be channelled to a force that we use to help us face the dangers and move forward anyway.
Once you exhaust your trust in yourself, there is a fail-safe. Fall back to the purpose that has you leading in the first place.
The purpose is not shaken because things are tough or people fail. The purpose remains a constant. If we are deliberate leaders, committed to a purpose we believe in, then when we begin to doubt ourselves, we have the purpose itself to bolster our courage.
Swanson refers to this in his second point – “the mission comes first.”
Keep Your Eye on the Prize
A deliberate leader is not leading for an ego trip. The accolades fall far short of the criticisms and problems that demand attention. People in leadership roles who are not deliberate leaders will be swayed by sentiment and eventually fade.
Deliberate leaders are focused on the big goal; the benefits of the purpose they espouse.
Leaders who change the world are no longer their own. They may not serve the country like our two soldiers, but they serve the people they lead. The purpose that drives them wakes them in the morning and visits them before they drift asleep. It’s the purpose that compels them to work through the pain and stay the course.
Many of the world’s greatest leaders of recent times lived long lives and found a way to lead until the very end. Their bodies hurt like all their peers, but they lived beyond their body. They were possessed by a dream and the dream fueled the body.
Stay in Communication
Communication is a two-way process of listening and speaking. That may be done with words, or it may not. Many messages are transmitted without words.
I am confident that our stories’ soldiers used hand and facial language as well was radios to communicate. The earliest settlers used smoke to pass the vital information along. Hunters break branches.
History bears the magical moments when great leaders chose to communicate their messages of purpose. The generals and captains giving orders to those who serve the purpose under their command. Great inspiration! Great oration.
But in the end, the communication that will keep people working together is the daily communication that the leader provides in your actions, your choices, your ability to hear and speak, and your willingness to face the turmoil and stay the course.
Don’t give up. Dig in.
Would you share some of your tips in our conversation to help others who are facing their leadership challenges? I check in often to read and comment.