As you may have noticed, here in the United States we’re well into our never-ending presidential election season. Personally, I find it an appalling process.
Here we are, trying to elect the person best able to lead the world’s most powerful country at a time of great turmoil both domestically and around the world. Yet the system currently in place is more geared to winning a pandering contest than to actually finding a good leader, much less the great statesman…or stateswoman…we so desperately need to guide us wisely through these difficult times.
When I look at the candidates, their debates, speeches and pronouncements, what do I see? Not strength of character, not reflection. Competency? It’s about making up the facts rather than carefully analyzing the results of past actions. The truth is irrelevant. Ideology reigns. The candidates avoid nuance at all costs while refusing to acknowledge the complexity of events and solutions. Unshakable core values and beliefs are nuisances, since the candidate’s object is to offer each constituency whatever it is they want to hear. Destroying others is a more effective tool than putting in the effort to develop and espouse good ideas. Ego reigns supreme.
This is hardly what we need from a leader, be it the president of the United States or the CEO of an organization.
Good leadership requires good thinking. It requires proficiency and competency developed and guided by reflecting on past actions, both good and bad. Peter Drucker said “follow effective action with quiet reflection. From the quiet reflection will come even more effective action.”
Good leadership requires you to move from the linear thinking of day-to-day consistency to the complex thinking required to deal with divergent intrusions of unknowable events. It needs to be based on facts and reality and adapt as new information appears.
Good leadership requires a firm and unshakable base of core values and beliefs, a vision of the future that excites and energizes, and a strength of character and will that holds firm against the continual buffeting of the winds pushing you off course. It’s not about being motivated by a desiring to please or adjusting your message to tell people what they want to hear. It’s about staying true to your beliefs and winning people over as they see the path to success you are building.
Most importantly, good leadership requires an ability to connect with everyone and engage them in the journey. You need to be open and honest with yourself and everyone else, absorb and learn from successes and failures, and be willing to listen to both assenting and dissenting voices.
You need to find the ability to navigate all this and speak in ways that inspire, energize, and unite all in the common quest for a better future.
It’s not easy. It takes hard work and a willingness to put the greater good before personal gain. It takes the strength to voice hard truths and accept facts and events as they are, not as you wish them to be.
Mull it over. How do you lead? How would you like to lead? Like you’re always working to get elected or as a leader with a vision that inspires others to follow?
The PGA Championship just took place at Whistling Straits in Kohler Wisconsin. I watched it off and on while playing a round of golf myself (attempting to play at the professional level) with a client in Pinehurst, North Carolina, in airports flying back, and at home on the weekend between catching up on work and doing all the other tasks a traveling person finds piled up when they return.
Whistling Straits is a very difficult course made worse the first two days of this tournament by horrible weather including extremely high winds. It was so bad that as lightning appeared late Friday afternoon the second round was suspended with a number of players still on the course. Play resumed the following morning and after the conclusion of the second round, the third round began. It was a long Saturday for those who had to finish their second round. The weather on the final two days was much nicer, so golf conditions improved significantly.
The differing weather conditions and thus golf course conditions faced by players is an added test of their skill. When the weather is erratic, a player can face a different course from minute to minute. There is no adjustment to your score if you’re caught in 50 mile per hour winds, the rain starts falling, or the temperature hits 105 degrees.
It’s the luck of the draw whether you play in the worst weather of the day, or the best. In either case your job is the same – get the ball in the cup in par or better. Most importantly, finish the four rounds in fewer strokes than everyone else.
And yet each player is expected to accept this without complaint. With only their caddy in tow for advice and support, they must always play their best and work to overcome obstacles the weather and changing conditions place in front of them.
Without complaint they must deal with the conditions as they find them even when they’re playing in hail and their competitors in a cool gentle breeze. As they play they must keep in mind that a shot or two can make the difference between winning or losing, between hundreds of thousands of dollars or nothing at all.
What’s the lesson here? No complaints. Work hard and persevere in spite of what is thrown at you. Work against and ignore any advantages your competitors might have. Stretch yourself to overcome obstacles and rise to the situation. Do the best you can do…always. Stay focused on your goal.
Be nice if you could have a whole team of professional golfers working for you, wouldn’t it?