Welcome back to thepracticalleader.com on our Youtube channel here. In today’s episode we’re going to talk about the top four challenges superlative leaders overcome every day.
Okay, honestly we do face lots of challenges. So how can I narrow it down to only four? Well, by this. While there are many opportunities that we need to avail ourselves of, and many decisions to be made, and many actions to be taken, there are four core principle challenges that shape every decision, every action, every impulse. If we live by principal, not by expedience, then those decisions actually become easier to make. Superlative leaders are leaders of principal, not just leaders of opportunity, or leaders of occasion. They make decisions, they take action, they respond to things on the basis of principles in their life that guide their leadership, rather than just the expedience of the moment.
Challenge number one is we are responsible for results. We have a number of constituents that we have to deal with. And those constituents, maybe, if were sole proprietor, and maybe just us and our family that we have to satisfy in terms of income, long-term viability, for ourselves fulfillment in life and how it may measure success. If we have a corporation there are boards of directors, there are investors, there are always customers or clients that we have to deal with it. If we’re a nonprofit then we have not only the people that we serve and take care of, but we have the donors that have to be satisfied. Which means we have to measure results. It can be measured by a lot of criteria, by dollars, by people served, by widgets made, by the rise in stock prices. It can be measured by a lot of things. But somewhere, somehow, there exists an expectation or a set of expectations that we are responsible to achieve. That’s what superlative leaders must remember. We are not paid for activity, we are paid for results. The solution? Define and articulate those results all the time. The people who work for you and with you need to know you’re making progress and success. The people you are responsible to, your constituents, they need to know that. Keep them ever visible to yourself and your associates, celebrate progress daily, examine and understand the reasons for the progress, repeat what works, find out what didn’t and fix it.
Principle number two, challenge number two, we must balance past and future. Interestingly, we are in tension between the desire to be faithful to the forms of management and leadership we’re familiar with and we may have inherited, and the realities of a changing world and its lack of response to those forms. Things are not the same today that they were 10 years ago, 20 years ago, 30 years ago, and they won’t be the same 10, 20 or 30 years from now. We are in tension between that and forms become familiar to us and therefore we tend to lean towards them and lean upon them. But those forms may not be effective anymore, and we have to decide and determine what forms are workable these days, because we’re after results, not just following form. Solution? For us, be married to results, but be friends only with forms and with processes. Be married to results, but be friends with forms and processes. Most of us fall into the habit of managing processes and complying with forms that we have, and I don’t mean just paper forms, but I mean structures and systems. And that can get us in trouble, because ultimately it may not be the efficient and economic, and expedient, and effective way to get somewhere. Be married to results, be friends with forms and processes.
Challenge number three, we must measure success by the right criteria. Activity is one thing, progress is another. Mission statements are well and good, but have no value if they do not somehow translate into a measuring device, a ruler by which we live. This falls back on the previous two principles. Results and results that are leading us in progress towards our objectives. Daily activities either propel us toward them, leave us standing still, or move us away from them. Effective superlative leaders are always moving towards one thing, they’re trying to make progress, not just stay busy. The solution? Take a hard and critical look at what is done each and every day. If it does not advance towards the objectives, why do we measure it? And then ask us why do we do it at all. And this has to happen on a regular basis. I’ve been teaching leadership seminars and working with consultants, I talk about the feedback loop where every day you’re taking a look at what’s happening and making sure it’s propelling you towards your objectives, not just keeping you busy.
Challenge number four, we must not think short term. Now, I work for a company for a while, and they never seem to get this right. Because they would deeply discount products in order to boost the top line sales on any particular day, or in any particular week. And so the top line would look real good, but at the end of the quarter, at the end of the accounting and reporting period, their margin would be low because they had discounted on a daily basis. Legacy leaders, those interested in leaving an impact long after they’re gone, will never sacrifice long-term objectives for short-term gain. They will not be deceived into thinking that high top line dollar amounts today will result in a great bottom line later. So, margin is always a concern. How much are you actually going to make over the long haul? So we never sacrifice long-term objectives for short-term gain.
I was working with a very experienced season counselor who is working in a volunteer business mentoring organization. And he finally decided he was done, he was going to retire. And I wanted to make sure that there wasn’t a problem with the contacts, with the people he was working with. He said no, no, no, it has everything to do with business today. He said when I worked in business for my career, 40+ years, we were interested in building our company for the long term, that would last for decades, for generations. He said I’m not seeing that now, I’m seeing people far more interested in short-term gain and progress, and taking a quick profit than they are in building a legacy company. Superlative leaders are legacy leaders. Long-term thinkers handle their staff differently, approach their customers on a different footing, and build a substantial foundation that makes an unshakable company.