A friend asked me how to make a leadership decision, a strategic decision.
Here’s how I do it.
First, I say to myself, “Today is the first day of the rest of my life. What I decide today and act on from here forward with commitment and conviction will create my future.”
Then I say, “I am a free human being. I am able to make this choice and act on it.”
Then I read my mission and vision aloud.
Then I state my choice aloud with clarity. For example, “Will I join this organization? Will I take this class?”
Then I ask, “Will doing this thing be the best way to achieve my vision and mission?” I can make a yes/no decision on one item, and I can also compare among alternatives.
I then look at this decision and ask, “Does doing this go against any of my values?” I read my values, and make sure that I can do this thing without violating my values.
If the thing I am choosing to do passes these tests, it is the best choice to make towards my visio and mission, within my values. Either I do it, or, if I don’t do it, it is what I give up. It is my opportunity cost.
Then I ask, “Can I do this?” If it seems impossible (too expensive, too much time, friends won’t like it), I pay attention to that. But I’m not limited by it. People do things that are called “impossible” all the time. Usually these pioneers leave a trail behind, and what was called “impossible” is now called “routine” by all the followers in the world. The world’s followers said that airplanes were impossible. The Wright Brothers and other leaders ignored that. Now, the world’s followers fly on airplance all over the world every day.
Most leadership decisions are risky. It is crucial to be realistic. It pays to be careful. But often, it does not pay to be cautious.
Caution is often fear in disguise. Leaders don’t let fear stay hidden. Leaders feel fear, and face it, and do what is truest to themselves and best for all.
A realistic decision does not bow to fear. But it does listen to fear.
For example, 95% of all new businesses fail in the first five years. If you’re launching a business, that’s a reason to be scared. But don’t run away. Instead, ask, “How can I make sure my business will be one of the 5% that succeeds?”
Even though 80% of new franchises succeed (or so I’ve heard), I’ve spoken to several franchise managers who tell me of important facts the franchiser did not tell them, facts that they wished they’d known before buying into the frachise. The solution: be bold – and do your homework. Take risks, and be responsible for preventing those pesky risks from blocking your path to success.
Then I ask, “How will doing this affect others in my life, and the balance of my life?” Again, it may throw my life off balance. That is not necessarily a reason not to do it. Rather it says, “This is a big decision. This decision is meant to change my life.” Most likely the best choice is to go for being great, and then pay attention to life balance.
When we choose what will take us most truly on the way to our vision and mission, and take care of our whole lives in balance, then we are truly leading our lives. Maslow calls such people self-actualized. We might think of self-actualized people as free, and also as masters of their lives. Traditional trades used to guide people through three levels of expertise: Apprentice (beginner); Journeyman (fully capable worker); and Master (Independent, creative craftersperson who can run his or her own business). Learning to be a leader is not just technical. Yes, we must be good at what we do to be a Master. But, more importantly, we are called to master our fears and lead our lives.
Live Boldly – Live Realistically – Create Your Life!