Conventional wisdom says, “10,000 hours of deliberate practice will make you world-class.” A recent study from Princeton debunks this theory. I believe this is great news for leaders.
Last week, Royal Dutch Shell abandoned a 9-year, $7 billion effort to find oil in Alaska’s Chukchi Sea. The decision was made in the face of tumbling oil prices and unrelenting pressure from environmental groups. The decisions you and I make are probably not of this magnitude, but in our world, no less important.
For the past couple of days I have written about how fear can cripple a leader.
Today, may I remind you that one of the most important traits you can possess is courage. In fact, let me be direct … the greatest leaders are willing to courageously die for their cause and their team.
Before you think I am nuts, I do not mean they are literally willing to die. But they are willing to die to themselves, to make the most sacrifices, and to lead by serving. Such commitments require massive amounts of courage.
My favorite courage words were penned by Alfred Lord Tennyson in his poem, The Charge of the Light Brigade. The first two stanzas set the tone for the band of 600, the heroes of the poem.
Tennyson writes . . .Half a league, half a league, Half a league onward, All in the valley of Death Rode the six hundred. “Forward, the Light Brigade! Charge for the guns!” he said: Into the valley of Death Rode the six hundred. “Forward, the Light Brigade!” Was there a man dismayed? Not tho’ the soldiers knew Someone had blundered: Theirs was not to make reply, Theirs was not to reason why, Theirs was but to do and die: Into the valley of Death Rode the six hundred.
The rest of the poem, which you can read here, is just as powerful. Tennyson’s words challenge me to question my courage. Am I brave enough to sacrifice? To consider the needs of others before I think of myself? To serve rather than be served?
How about you? When was the last time you demonstrated that kind of leadership courage? The last time you charged when others were retreating?
Maybe it is time to turn around and head into the fire – to charge into the valley of death, without hesitation. 600 others made that choice one time and now they are immortalized.
Will you be remembered? I suspect you will improve your odds if you choose to charge.
Leadership Begins at Home,
Can you think of a modern example of a team or a leader who is dying to self and putting others first?
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This post originally appeared on December 4, 2013. It’s a message that still matters. We have to make tough choices every day.
Every leader worth their salt should be constantly re-evaluating their strategies, not just yearly, but quarterly and even monthly. Good leaders strive for improvement and efficiency and one way we can approach this challenge is to consider which choices create the best impact on and for our team.
In the research for Chess Not Checkers, we identified four moves all High Performance Organizations make. Last week, I wrote about the first of the four: Bet on Leadership. Today, I have pulled another excerpt from the Chess Not Checkers Field Guide, which I co-authored with Randy Gravitt. Following is the introduction to the second move… Act as One.
I had two experiences Saturday that reminded me of a little discussed responsibility of leaders – maintain relevance. We must not only work to stay relevant ourselves, we must help the brands and organizations we serve maintain relevance in a changing world.
Years ago, when I began the process of writing The Heart of Leadership, I identified dozens of leadership character traits. In my attempt to create a short list of the most essential, I decided Respond with Courage had to be included. Courage is the catalyst for great leadership.
Today is a national holiday in America to honor the work, the impact and the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I was just a little kid when Dr. King was changing the face of our nation. I have vague memories of the conversations my parents and others were having during those tumultuous times in the south. Today, with decades to prove his lasting influence, the bright light of history has illuminated his many strengths – Dr. King was an amazing leader.
What do you want for Christmas? When my oldest son, Justin was three he wanted socks and a globe. There was no hesitation. He was sure. I wonder sometimes if as leaders, we don’t get what we want, because we’re not sure what we really want. If there was a leadership Santa Claus who would climb down your chimney on Christmas eve, what would you ask for? (Assuming you’ve been nice this past year.)