What a Mess
“David, the people at the top aren’t making rational business decisions and I can’t predict their decisions.”
My client, Max, ran both hands through his hair and sighed. The senior director of an civil engineering firm, he had built an excellent leadership team and had worked hard to build the best regional operation in the company.
He spilled out the situation in a rush of words: “There are politics going on there that I don’t even want to understand. When I told one of the key players at the home office what his changes would mean for the clients, he didn’t even know what we do. The whole situation is just crazy. It’s a mess!”
He took a breath and slumped in his chair. “I don’t know what tomorrow’s going to look like. You always say we need to clarify expectations – but I don’t have a clue. There’s no way to predict any of this. By next month we may be bigger, we may be cut in half – I just don’t know.”
He looked up and asked the question that was really bothering him, “How do I lead through this chaos?”
When Life is Messy
Leadership can be challenging because real life doesn’t come packaged in nice neat formulas that instantly apply to every situation. (We share many practical tactics and techniques in Winning Well – you can download many of these in our free Winning Well Toolkit.)
But…no matter how many of these tactics and tools we give you, we can’t possibly give you the specific answers to every leadership and management scenario you’ll ever face.
The Power of Principle
You’ll never be able to completely predict what will happen. People act irrationally, circumstances change, and the truly unforeseeable happens.
The good news is that you don’t need a specific step-by-step plan for the infinite number of problems you might face. There’s a better way: the power of principle.
Principles are the fundamental values and focus that guide your behavior. You’ll never be 100% certain about what will happen tomorrow, but you should be 100% certain about your own principles.
Regardless of the chaos, uncertainty, and challenges you face, you get to choose your values, your focus, and how you interact with the people around you. You don't know what you'll show up to, but you always choose how you'll show up.
Leaders who win well ground themselves in confidence and humility. They stay focused on both relationships and results in every interaction.
Your ability to lead from confident humility while focused on building relationships and achieving results doesn’t depend on circumstances or what anyone else does. You choose how you show up and how you lead.
Max ultimately committed to what he could control: he focused on helping his team navigate the transitions, clear communication of what he did know, ensuring the dignity of everyone involved, and doing his best to help headquarters have the information they needed to make healthy decisions (whether they eventually used it or not).
Remember that you always get to choose how you show up. It’s the one choice that changes everything.
Hit reply or leave us a comment and share your thoughts: When life goes crazy, how do you maintain your perspective and choose to lead well?
Be the leader you want your boss to be.
Creative Commons photo by HowardIgnatius