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Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Nature of Leadership

On a recent post to his blog, author Seth Godin shared one of his favorite excerpts from his book "Tribes".

He explains that leadership is and should be uncomfortable. Not everyone is willing to deal with the discomfort. Therefore, people willing to lead are in short supply. Scarcity makes leadership valuable. Seth goes on to state three things that really caught my attention:
  • "When you identify the discomfort, you've found the place where a leader is needed."
  • "If you're not uncomfortable in your work as a leader, it's almost certain you're not reaching your potential as a leader."
  • "It is uncomfortable to stand up in front of strangers... to propose an idea that might fail... to challenge the status quo... to resist the urge to settle."
Avoiding discomfort is something that we are instinctively wired to do. Several years ago, I took my son and cousin canoeing down a river near our home. We came up on a bend in the river where the current picked up and swept us sideways into a stump sticking up in the water. My cousin and son both instinctively leaned away from the stump as we bumped into it. The current pushing us into the stump lifted that side of the canoe, and with my son and cousin leaning the other direction our canoe quickly flipped over.

Our flipping over could have been avoided if we had done what most river boaters call "going high side" or basically lean into the hazard.

As leaders we have to master our instincts and lean into the things that make us uncomfortable, or we might find ourselves just trying to keep our heads above water.

"A 'No' uttered from the deepest conviction is better than a 'Yes' merely uttered to please, or worse, to avoid trouble." - Mohandas Gandhi