Leadership becomes great when we see our skills as talents. Given to us. For others.
Leadership is fundamentally stewardship, isn’t it? We steward who we are and what we have been given. We steward the mission before us and the people around us. In doing so we then steward the future. Megan and I remind ourselves constantly that we’re not raising children, we’re raising adults who are currently children. It helps with our perspective in the challenging times, celebration in the good times and rhythm in between.
Becoming promotable is the best gift you can give the people you work with, the people you love and your future self. There’s a sense of deep personal pride in identifying, growing and expressing your potential in service to others and in the name of a bigger idea or story.
The idea of being promotable began with six big ideas:
Leadership becomes great when we see our skills as talents. Given to us. For others. Creating a cadence that allows us to grow to our full potential, and serving others, places you at the front of the leadership pack.
- Ambition – An internal, forward-focused drive.
- Activity – Motivation that gets things done.
- Responsibility – Fully accountable for your attitude and actions.
- Formation – Intentionally becoming more.
- Perspective – Thinking through things differently.
- Purpose – Knowing and holding to your big ‘why’.
Creating a leadership cadence that serves your future matters to you now and will matter in five years time. Leverage these six ideas with the lens of rhythm means they look like this moving forward.
Balance Ambition with Humility
I believe in ambition. I believe in the internal drive that sees the summit and believes they, and others, ought to aim to get there and celebrate. The balance to ambition is twofold. Firstly, motive, who is this for? I mean really who is this for? Leadership longevity balances a drive to win with a commitment to thinking of yourself less (Attribution C. S. Lewis) Like running to win the gold and immediately handing it off to the hundreds of arms that have helped you up so you could get there.
Balance Activity with Margin
Confession, I like having a full schedule, it makes me feel and appear like I’m busy…
Yes, busy. Not productive.
I have to purposefully leave margin in my world for the things that are most important. My most important relationships, thinking and creating, connecting with purpose. Ideating something I have a conviction the world needs. Serving others. All these require margin, time, energy, finance, relationships.
‘Free Time’ might be the most creative and productive you protect in your calendar. Time to write, respond, lean in, be present, say yes spontaneously.
Create, then protect, your margins.
Balance Responsibility with Curiosity
These aren’t mutually exclusive, but they can get in the way of one another. Responsibility is my highest personal value. If you did it, own it. Make it good, move forward in wisdom. Leaders are not perfect, we are authentic. I equally believe in being a leader of your word. If you say you’ll do it, do it. Ancient writers say “let your yes be a yes and your no be a no.” Be clear about what you committed to and what you accept.
Innovation is almost always found at the edges, not the centre. When was the last time you took a trip to the edge rather than protected the centre? When was the last time you let fresh eyes and ears have a voice in your work, your brand, your leadership? The budding shoots of thought, art, ideas, creativity is almost always too hard to see in the centre of policy, procedure and bureaucracy. Trip to the edge sometime and lean into what you know you don’t know.
Balance Formation with Service
This is about inputs and outputs. For many years psychologists believed that the deepest level of healing and restoration takes place for people seeking wholeness in a place of service and in contribution to others. Paradoxically the idea of “me time” doesn’t ultimately serve your leadership.
I’m not saying break yourself in half for the sake of others and work, leaving nothing left for your family and dreams. I’m saying find a rhythm of growing and giving that works more like a sharp saw. Use the saw for its intended purpose then allow it to be prepared for even greater use next time. Covey calls it “sharpening the saw” making certain the tools we use are prepared well, treated with dignity then unleashed to do their absolute best.
Balance Perspective with a Sense of Urgency
A number of years ago I worked in a team that had to deliver to a deadline on a regular basis. We ran with a mantra that said, “Most of our problems can be fixed in 24 hours or less.” That really helped us put the challenges into perspective. Was it a problem? Yes. Did it matter? Yes. Was it an inconvenience? Often.
Perspective does’t change emergencies but it sure changes things we think are emergencies into much more manageable issues.
Perspective helped us make sense of the problem. However, urgency helped us solve it. Urgency isn’t about losing perspective, it’s about focusing it. Taking the right amount of time to get the job done at the right level. A two-minute job should take… two-minutes. A two-hour job should take no more than two hours. If it’s a two-day investment prepare appropriately. The two-week vacation requires an appropriate level of planning.
Use perspective to make sense OF the challenge and urgency to take action ON it. Gamify it a bit and make it something you’ll try to do in a shorter period of time, with better results. The more you make it fun the more you’ll see urgency as a motivator, not a stressor.
Balance Why with What and How
You can sometimes be too in love with ideas. Especially your own. Sometimes you can be too conceptual and not strategic or tactical enough.
Remember you WHY is supposed to inform you WHAT and your HOW. It does start with why but it doesn’t stop there.
Balance the power and beauty of purpose with equal parts strategy and execution. Leverage the purpose to set direction, allocate resources, make decisions. Move from the why to the what and how, and return back to your why when needed. Move from helicopter view to street view and everywhere in between to accomplish what you have set out to accomplish.
A leadership cadence is what helps you hold in tension the two sides of growth and progress, development and deployment, thinking and doing. It holds you to a higher standard and asks more of you in service to others. It also serves your inner world, providing you frameworks for personal formation, opportunities for growth and points of reflection. It’s this cadence that helps you summit in life and succeed in leadership.
This is for leaders. I am for leaders.