One of the common causes of failure among leaders is assuming that they cannot fail simply because they never have.
They assume that their future, and the future of their organization is just an almost automatic extension of their past. They assume that they will always succeed because they always have. That causes the assumption that because “things” have always been a certain way they will always be that way.
That assumption has always been wrong but it’s never been more wrong than it is today. “Things” are most certainly changing and they are changing at a breakneck pace.
This increased pace of change has never been on greater display than in the current United States Presidential Campaign. The Republican Party has completely missed the fact that people don’t want and won’t accept the status quo. The leadership of the party just assumed that despite all evidence to the contrary, “things” would eventually return to normal and everything would be as it was.
The Democratic Party is just as confused. They appear to be in the process of selecting a candidate who proudly says “I am a child of the sixties and I think like a child of the sixties.” Well guess what, as sad as it might make me and a lot of other people, children of the sixties are not the future of the United States or the world.
What once was isn’t anymore and leaders who fail to understand that absolute fact will themselves fall victim to failure.
To avoid that all too common leadership failure you must know exactly why you do everything thing you do. If you’re doing anything, anything at all, simply because “we’ve always done it that way” then you are putting yourself, and your organization on a potential path to failure. If you assume that anything will be the same in just ten years as it is today then your path to failure is even wider.
Some, maybe even many, leaders from the Baby Boomer generation, when asked by a leader from the Millennial generation, “why do you do it that way?” see the question as a threat or a challenge to their leadership. They need to see it as an opportunity to verify that what they are currently doing is still the best way to do it. They need to see the question as an opportunity to improve. They absolutely need to understand that “the way they have always done it” might not actually be the best way to do it today.
To avoid this common leadership failure leaders must challenge their own thinking everyday and surround themselves with people who will challenge their thinking for them when they can’t or won’t. Then, and this is the real secret to leadership success, then they must allow those people who they have surrounded themselves with to actually challenge them with zero risk of reprisal.
Leaders who assume, hope or believe that “things” are not changing have blinded themselves to the fact that most everything IS changing and they are going to continue to change whether they are ready for it or not.
As President Lincoln said, “The best way to predict your future is to create it.” Leaders who let the future happen will eventually fail. Leaders who continually create their future will have the best opportunity for continual success.
Who is creating your future?
4 thoughts on “Creating Leadership Success”
Great post! The flop side of this…those who have faced failure in the past cannot and should not expect failure in the future. Past failure does not predict future failure any more than past success predicts future success. Success, like failure, is influenced by many, many factors. One of them, as you state, is the ability of a leader to embrace change, even or especially in themselves. As a young man I listened to a person in the leadership position say, “people who fail, fail; people who succeed, succeed.” Done and done! It wasn’t accurate then just like it’s not accurate now. The only predictor of success or failure is what we do with the resources we have in our hand and the present moment in which we lead.
Thanks, that is an excellent point. Some truly successful people have failed many times …. before the succeeded. The didn’t actually fail each time, the just found another way what they wanted to accomplish wouldn’t work.
Thank you for the thought provoking post Steve! I love to be the person that asks the question, “Why do we do it that way?” …But I’m realizing that I don’t always appreciate that question when it is aimed at me.
You’re just like me…I like asking it FAR more than I like it being asked of me 😊