Back to Basics

 “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” Ecclesiastes 1:9

With so much written on the subject of leadership, it can be challenging to identify the right pathway to success. Personally, I am always searching and exploring the topic in hopes of finding a nugget of truth to apply to my life and make a more positive impact on my team. Over the years, however, I have reached the conclusion that oftentimes what I am studying is not a new concept or construct, but rather a repackaging of a former idea that has been modernized for a new audience. I have found that in reality there is nothing new under the sun.

Now before you think I have gone off the deep end, please know that I am in no way attempting to discourage you from studying in order to perfect your craft, quite the opposite actually. In my opinion, the restatement of an old idea both validates and demonstrates its value. It’s survival of the test of time increases its relevance and provides a firm foundation for the current generation of leaders.  I am indebted to the great leadership writers of our generation.

Perhaps, however, this repurposing of old ideas is a way of saying that we need less newfangled epiphanies and more return to the basics. Maybe our greatest success as leaders lies in our ability to embrace the simple over the complex, and to remain faithful to a set of tried and true fundamentals.

So here’s the Four One One…

If you want a team that follows you by choice, let the following serve as the four cornerstones of your leadership…

Others First

As simple as it sounds the “others first” attitude stands as the great differentiator between good leaders and great leaders. Always remember, your position carries with it a great deal of power; making it easy to focus on your needs, your success, and what you can accomplish. Great leaders, by contrast, seek the good of the team over their personal good. As Mark Miller writes in his book, The Heart of Leadership, “…your ever present question is not what can you do for yourself; rather it is how can you serve them. When decisions are made, you consider the organization and your people before you weigh the personal consequences.”

Your Word is Your Bond

Before the time of written contracts, a handshake or a spoken word was considered binding; whereas today, so called white lies, half-truths, and broken promises are the norm. As a leader, your words and your deeds must be inextricably linked. Failure to do so will erode your team’s trust and once trust is lost, it can be nearly impossible to recover.  “Be impeccable with your word. Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean.” Miguel Angel Ruiz, Author

Own Your Mistakes

Legendary Coach John Wooden wrote,” If you’re not making mistakes, then you’re not doing anything. I’m positive that a doer makes mistakes.” Perfection may be your goal; nevertheless mistakes will be made during your pursuit.  Your team will be willing to accept your short comings as long as you are willing to admit you have them. Your hard earned reputation can be easily lost when you blame others or make excuses for your mistakes. Application of the Three T’s will serve you well. They are Tell it all, Tell it fast, and Tell the Truth.

Block and Tackle

As a leader it is your responsibility to “block and tackle” for your team; identifying and removing obstacles from their path to success. You sit in the position of power and you must use it for the benefit of your team. Do they have training they need to be successful? Is there a process in place that hinders their ability to perform at a high level? Are there people in the organization making unrealistic demands on your team? Are there conflicting priorities that are immobilizing them?  It is your job as their leader to get answers to these questions, and then use your power to ensure their success. Always remember the immortal words of Spiderman, “With great power comes great responsibility.”


The Resolution Graveyard

This is the time of year when many of us make resolutions for the New Year. One look at our bank account,  the number that appears when we step on the scale or the guy across the table with whom we are having dinner, and we decide something must change in the upcoming year!

What is it about this time of year that has us focusing on making such monumental changes? And if the change is really important, why do we decide on December 20th to do something that we won’t start until January 1st. Why not start today? Why is tomorrow more promising?

It’s true that many Americans avoid resolutions all together. As a matter of fact, according to data collected by the University of Scranton, 38% of Americans never make New Year’s resolutions. Of course, that leaves 62% of us that still hold to this time honored tradition.

And here’s a staggering statistic. According to a survey conducted by FranklinCovey, 35% of New Year’s resolutions are broken before the end of January. So odds are you and Mr. Wonderful will still be hanging out on February 1st.

So here’s the Four One One…

For leaders, our resolutions are far too important to leave in the Resolution Graveyard when times get tough. The changes we resolve to make impact the lives of the people we lead, therefore, they must be pursued with conviction and dedication. This in no way implies that we won’t break these resolutions along the way, but rather once they are broken we will take responsibility, get back on the horse, and keep riding. Someone once said, “Success is the child of drudgery and perseverance. It cannot be coaxed or bribed; pay the price and it is yours.”

Are you making any resolutions for the upcoming year? Here are a few tips to help you along the way…

Think Long and Think Wrong

It takes incredible courage to admit we need to change and even more courage to execute it. Spend too much time thinking about the challenges you will face and you will find yourself frozen in time; paralyzed by the fear of failure. While it is true that a journey of a thousand miles begins with just one step, it is equally true that you have to take the first step!

 Be Deliberate and Intentional

After you have made the resolution, write down some very specific steps you can take to get there. What will success look like? How will you know it when you see it?  Your resolution should serve to provide context for the decisions you make this year. If for instance, you have resolved to be more thoughtful, ask yourself, “How will (fill in the blank) help me get closer to my resolution to think of others before I think of myself?”

 It’s a Journey not a Destination

Our instant messaging culture has in many ways led us to believe that we can have all that we want by simply typing a few characters on our smartphone. In reality, long lasting change requires a long lasting pursuit. It’s not going to happen overnight, so embrace the journey.

Don’t Be Afraid to Begin Again…and Again

Unless you have been endowed with some supernatural power that prevents you from falling, odds are that somewhere along the way you are going to break your resolution.  I contend that breaking your resolution is not the issue, its failing to start again that is the problem. Do not let yourself succumb to “all or nothing” thinking. Give yourself room to grow and change and by all means remember the words of Thomas Edison, “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”