This TED talk is worth watching repeatedly, until you get it all the way through to your soul.
If that made sense, these might too:
THE best leaders are self made. They strive to be the best they can be. One of my favorite organizational leaders, John Allison, worked his way up from rank & file employee to CEO of BB&T. In each position he held, he committed himself to being the best possible exemplar of that role. He made it his mission to understand what would constitute the best for each role then set out to achieve it.
The best leaders recognize that merit (or its lack) is the only criteria by which they judge themselves and others. Sex, skin color, body type, and race are all irrelevant. As Martin Luther King put it, people should “…not be be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character”.
And that, the content of your character, your self image, your value as a human, to yourself and to others, should be defined by your purpose and your modus operandi, not by your affiliation to a race, a political ideology, or a football team.
And that’s where your will comes in. You, that conglomerate of values, ideas, opinions, feelings, emotions, prejudices, memories, and tastes, are under your own control. You have the power to shape your character, and therefore your destiny. Abdicate the responsibility of control, and you’ll be a product of whatever you were born with and what your environment makes of you. Chose to exercise your will, and you can be the person you admire most.
Taking the lead starts with activating your mind. The first person you need to lead is you.
LEADERSHIP means making decisions.
There are a lot of theories on decision-making and many suggested methods for making better ones. We’ll look at some of them in future posts. Before we consider the how-to though, we should consider the why.
Decision-making is not just for titled leaders of course; we all face a multitude of choices in life. Many people, unfortunately, abdicate the responsibility of making them, allowing others to do their choosing for them. Making decisions is not easy sometimes; it takes effort and consideration. But, it’s a vital part of taking the lead, in work, at play, and in your life.
Consciousness, as author and philosopher Ayn Rand pointed out, is the faculty of awareness. To be conscious is to be aware, and in the fully human sense, to be aware is to also be aware of your self. As soon as you are self-aware, you have to choose.
Imagine this. You open your eyes for the very first time. You’re sitting somewhere. You look around and see your environment. You look down and see your own body. You work out pretty quickly how your hands and arms and legs work. Now, what do you do?
The very first thing is… you choose. You cannot not choose. Before you can take any action, even as simple as standing up, you must choose that action. If you decide to stay where you are and take no action, that too is a choice. Nothing beyond the physiological processes of your body is automatic. As paradoxical as it sounds, as a human the only thing about which you have no choice is that you must make choices. If you can say “I” you must choose.
I = choice.
This is Free Will.
Why does this matter? Because so many people don’t choose. They do not exercise their free will. They accept, they drift, they evade, they rationalize. I call them unthinking followers.
They accept unquestioningly the ideas and dictates of others, whether smart or silly, instead of choosing to look at reality for themselves, to find the evidence that confirms those ideas, or discounts them.
They drift through life, maybe with loosely held “dreams”, instead of setting goals and creating a plan to make those dreams reality.
They evade the need to face challenges and make hard choices, including about who they are and who they’d like to be, instead of taking responsibility for where they are in life, no matter what mistakes they’ve made or misfortune they’ve suffered, and then taking one step after another on a new, better path.
They rationalize everything. Making excuses about what is rather than taking action to create what should be.
The first choice every human needs to make is to focus on reality; which, by the way, all children do instinctively. Sadly, many unlearn it by the example of others. As they grow they become more and more dependent on what others say and do, and worse, they worry about what they think others think(!).
Stay focused on reality. Use every ounce of your ability to work out the truth, to comprehend reality… in everything. Being focused means choosing to activate your mind, and keeping it activated.
Choosing to think unlocks the gate to endless possibility. Behind that gate lie success and happiness. And good thinking is the foundation of leadership.
PS: Think about this: You are your will.
HERE’S a very simple rule for getting things done (which is another way of saying, “gaining values”). I call it the 5-Step rule. Simple name, big effect.
Step #1 Focus – activate your mind and look at reality. Don’t worry about what others tell you; what do you see?;
Step #2 Think – ask yourself questions. Lots of them, over and over and over;
Step #3 Choose – decide what action you are going to take;
Step #4 Commit – to the plan of action you just chose, don’t be distracted, go to it!;
Step #5 Add value – Don’t go half-arsed. Put your heart into it or go home.
The 5-Step Rule applies to big things, small things, and everything in between. From what you’ll have for breakfast to choosing a career. It even applies if you fluff a step – start again and re-apply the rule.
Focus. Think. Choose. Commit. Add Value.
Wash, rinse, repeat.