Essentials To Leadership #4

Essentials to life and leadership are the basis upon which we survive and succeed. Water is to life what character is to leadership. The sun brings to life what vision brings to leadership. Enzymes provide to life what passion supplies to leadership. To briefly summarize, the three essentials to leadership we have considered involve character, vision and passion.

The fourth essential to life is air. It is almost humorous to state the obvious, but how do we know air is essential to life? Well, just try to hold your breath for more than five minutes. Seems pretty obvious does it not?

I learned some powerful lessons in a scuba diving course several years ago. One of the exercises involved sitting on the bottom of the harbor. Each student held the hand of a buddy behind them while the oxygen tank was turned off. Once the student experienced what it felt like to run out of oxygen, they would squeeze the buddies hand and they would turn the valve on to release the flow of oxygen from the tank.

The word “interesting” would be an understatement to characterize the experience. I remember vividly when my buddy turned the valve off and for a few seconds I began thinking, “hey, I can breathe under water.” I guess I was convinced at some point I would take a deep breath and be able to hold it for a period of time before needing to squeeze my buddies hand. If you have ever participated in this type of exercise, you know exactly what happened next. While I was thinking I was aqua man, as I was about to take my next breath, all of a sudden there was nothing. It felt like someone had their hands around my throat. The ability to even try to take a breath was gone. I am sure my buddy must have thought I was about to die as I tried to crush their hand. All I wanted was to breathe and would do whatever I had to in order to get the life giving source of oxygen into my lungs.

The necessity of air provides a great foundation to understanding the fourth essential to leadership…goals. David Schwartz wrote, “goals are as essential to leadership as air is to life.” After a brief exercise on the ocean floor, I certainly had a better perspective of the analogy.

Narrowing down the significance of goals in leadership is an incredible task. Goals are more than a dream or wish. Goals are objectives stemming from leadership vision. Goals serve to provide purpose and direction. Goals establish priorities, unity, efficient use of time, and aid in charting the future. With this in mind, several factors need to be considered regarding goals.

The most common approach to goals is referred to as SMART goals. Goals must be Specific, Measurable, Action oriented, Realistic, and Time bound. At another time, it will be important to look at each in detail. For now, the ideas must speak for themselves.

When considering goal setting and goal achieving, it is necessary to examine the plans for reaching goals through SWOT analysis. SWOT analysis looks at the goal(s) and examines the development of programs within the plan to reach the goal(s) by the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats.

Realizing there are hundreds of ideas regarding how to set and achieve goals, a few important areas should be considered:

1)  Start at the finish line: In Stephen Covey’s book, “7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” the second habit is to begin with the end in mind. What do you want people to say about you and your character at your funeral? Whatever it is, begin now to work on living it. The same principle is true with goals for any individual or organization.

2)  Understand where you begin: In the movie “Magnum Force,” Harry Callahan (played by Clint Eastwood) tells the mayor and his lieutenant,  “a good man’s gotta know his limitations.” What are your strengths and weaknesses? Without knowing personal and team strengths and/or weaknesses, obstacles are bound to occur that could and can be prevented.

3)  Manage your time well: Time management is vital to the success of achieving goals. However, developing time bound goals involves establishing priorities. Leaders must know what must be done first.

4)  WRITE IT DOWN: A study conducted at Dominican University has proven a substantial difference when students wrote down their goals versus students who did not. The results establish a precedence for anyone who leads…write down your goals.

5)  Sustain motivation: It is easy to build up morale and excitement to begin a project, but to sustain it is another issue all together. Determine from the beginning how and where points of evaluation will be needed and what will be done to sustain motivation toward the goal.

5 comments on “Essentials To Leadership #4

  1. techministry says:

    Another good post Bob. Unfortunately, most people in leadership roles today don’t depend on written, specific goals like they do air. Since lack of goals doesn’t feel like that scuba diving exercise – gasping for breath – rather than realizing there is no oxygen, they simply slowly, but inevitably suffocate their leadership influence because they have no targets to shoot for. Ready, fire, aim.

  2. Turner says:

    So true. I always appreciate the input you give. It continues to help me learn and grow how to approach my writing and leadership. You are a great friend and brother.

  3. Randy Duke says:

    Bob –
    Really good stuff! Part of a year long study in my recently completed Executive MBA program was looking at admired leaders. Each student was to select and interview an admired leader, asking them a particular set of questions regarding their own style of leadership. We were then asked to pool our individual results to see if we could identify any hidden “gems” or traits that these admired leaders possessed. Long story short, writing important information down was a common finding in most of the interviews.
    Keep it coming!

  4. Denny says:

    So you put “write it down” in caps? Wow. It is important, though. I’ve learned the hard way to always have something with me on which I can record thoughts, ideas, etc. Fact is, you will not remember (and even if you do, there will probably be some really cool stuff that you’ve forgotten).
    The last point “sustain motivation” is a tough one. If it is truly a worthy goal, motivation should sustain itself. If it doesn’t, perhaps evaluation of the goal is required.

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