Creating Leadership Success

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? 

The Value of Planning

I talk with people nearly every week who tell me that they can’t plan because “things” change. The thing is, that’s exactly why you need a plan. The greatest value of the planning process may not be the actual plan, it may just be the fact that you stopped long enough to do some planning. 

Plans may not always work but planning always does.

In order to plan we need to think and thinking is always good. We need to think about where we are, where we want to be, and how we can get from here to there. A good planning process will include decision making on how much we are willing to invest to get there. Good planners remember to think of investment in terms of BOTH financial and time investments. 

Good plans of course include timelines for goal achievement to help build a little accountability into the plan and any plan worth the time it took to put it together includes periodic follow-up built into the plan to ensure it’s still on track.

That follow-up is where most planners miss the mark. 

German military strategist Helmuth von Moltke is credited with first saying that “No battle plan survives contact with the enemy.” In business it’s fair to say that no plan survives contact with reality. In sales it’s safe to say that there has never been a marketing plan that fully survived first contact with a customer. 

Yet many “planners” assume once the plan is complete that the planning is done. The most successful people, from any walk of life, will tell you that planning is never “done.”

All good plans begin with a clear view of the “as is” or current situation and many of those plans fail because they are never adjusted, even though the “as is” will often change.

That’s the biggest reason why what got you where you are will likely NOT get you to where you want to be. Things change, circumstances change, technology changes, customers change, everything changes… and so must your plans.

It’s a great idea to stop on your journey to success once and a while to see where you’re actually at. Look around, see what’s different from the day your initial plan was developed. Determine if where you are at is still aligned with where you want to be. 

If the plan is still aligned with your goals and objectives then perhaps a few tweaks to your plan will suffice. If the alignment is way off perhaps a blank piece of paper is the best place to begin again. 

Most importantly, when reviewing your plan is this: Don’t attempt this alone! If it’s “your” plan, if you developed it, it’s very likely that you’re to close to really see it for what it is. Get help, if you’re a leader then task your people with a review of the plan. If you’re an entrepreneur and just starting out then ask your mentor or someone you trust to periodically review your plan. 

However you choose to review your plan the key is to actually review it, at least a couple of times a year. Things change, if your plan isn’t changing with them then what got you where you are most certainly will NOT get you to where you want to go next.