Leaders understand that “problems cannot be solved at the same level of consciousness that created them. – Albert Einstein. Leaders therefore prepare to mitigate problems by going through various “what if” scenarios with their team. Leaders tap into the the collective wisdom of the team by encouraging the team to look at problems from a different perspective or angle and then factor potential obstacles into the planning process to be prepared for any future event. By going through this exercise, the message to the team is we can remove many of the obstacles up front. Secondly, we can be in “ready mode” by having contingency plans for the other, less controllable events. Leaders cannot afford to be absent or unengaged. They must be present, purposely focused and prepared for any challenge.
This could have been what Colin Powell had in mind in his Lessons in Leadership presentation when he said, “Never neglect the details. When everyone’s mind is dulled or distracted the leader must be doubly vigilant.”
Leaders also know that every great idea has a shelf life and lifespan. Leaders do not wait until that time is up. They would rather break it and create something else, the next great idea. It is about taking calculated risks, staying curious, and being willing to change lanes if necessary and go a different direction. We are not talking revolutionary changes, that include high-stakes gambling or survival instinct, but taking appropriate risk to move the organization forward and to stay viable and competitive. In todays environment we have to challenge the status quo.
Taking appropriate risks to remain relevant and ahead of the competition sounds good and seems easy but think of your favorite NFL team. When they have a lead in the game, the tendency is to play it safe and stop taking risks. They play not to lose at that point and play more conservatively. Often the opposing team catches up, and subsequently overtakes the winning team. This happens because the losing team is still risking big since they have something to lose, the game. This applies in business as well. When most companies have something to gain, in other words, there is money to spend on taking a risk to improve and reinvest in company technology, innovation or people development, the tendency is to become complacent and maintain the status quo since everything appears to be going well. This is the enemy within. But if we start losing profit margins, astute companies are more apt to take bigger risks to try to turn the situation around and ultimately come out stronger and more successful.
Through extensive due diligence, leaders prepare for the challenges and dangers that can get in the way of their success, or worse, create the “knock-out punch” in the implementation of their plans, projects and tasks. They continue to galvanize the team to continually move forward and challenge themselves, taking appropriate risks to not only meet expectations, but to exceed them.