AUDIO: Its not time for Chicken Little….
August 31, 2016phdgreg
Summer winds down. The Olympics fade. The autumn workload comes into view. The autumnal equinox approaches. Once upon a time in our collective agrarian past, we would have been deep in the work of harvest and all that that meant: the possible celebration of bounty and the determination of prospects for the winter ahead. Like most times, those times and today provide reason for optimism and hope and reason for pessimism and fear. Hope and fear often lead down very different paths. Leaders help us to choose.
First and foremost leaders cannot divorce themselves from reality. Doing so undercuts their credibility and beggars their decisions. To paraphrase Napoleon, ‘A leader must understand reality and create options.’ Reality includes what exists outside an organization (the environment, market, competition…) as well as what exists inside an organization (resources, skills, and fortitude…). As the old joke goes, a commander sits in his tent as one direct report enters, bedraggled and clearly exhausted, and reports ‘Sir, the left flank has collapsed’. A second direct report, looking worse than the first, staggers into the tent and reports, ‘Sir, the right flank is in full retreat’. A third direct report, badly wounded, crawls into the tent and barely manages to spit out, ‘Sir, the center has been obliterated’. The commander then leaps to his feet and yells, ‘Excellent. Attack!’
One can imagine what happens…and what doesn’t happen next. False optimism, hope disconnected from reality, and accompanying bravado serve neither a leader nor his or her followers well. That said, however, optimism grounded in the possible, even the mightily challenging, provides the possibility of aspiration and of the joy of creating, of building–of the proactive, assertive, and life-enhancing. Fear (and its cousins pessimism, anger and hatred-of the world, of others, and of ourselves) can energize us to act quickly and pointedly. Fear helps catalyze us to run from a burning building. It does not, however, help sustain us over the time required to redesign (perhaps to reimagine) and to rebuild that building.
Unleashing optimism and hope can begin with gaining perspective on reality. Leaders can help greatly with that. This is not about making lemonade out of lemons. It is about getting reality right to enable the creation of effective options.
The attached audio….link…. provides a brief illustration from a most difficult time not so long ago.