Updated: Jan 28, 2021
We’ve talked about being someone worth following and the importance of monitoring our actions and reactions over the last two posts. Now, let’s shift our focus to our third “C’ of leadership; commitment. This trait is non-negotiable in todays environment. As we look throughout history, the great leaders we admire all had an unbending commitment to their vision, organization, and values. The clichés are out there. They’re adopted in nearly every team setting; on t-shirts, locker room walls, and hashtags on social media. Stay the course, burn the ships, all in, etc. My personal favorite is the Spartan tradition that included a loved one giving handing over the shield to their warrior before he left for battle. This tradition always concludes with the statement “e tan e epi tas” which translates to an order for the solder to return “with it or on it”. It’s simple, it’s concise, and it’s true. If you want to accomplish anything great, a deep commitment is a prerequisite and acknowledgement of the potential sacrifice must be present.
When we think of leaders, we think of the person out in front leading the charge. Whether it’s leading your team into a game or leading your sales department into the final quarter, make no mistake you are out in front. Regardless of your arena, as a leader you will be tasked with making decisions under stress and in the face of adversity. Leaders must be committed to multiple things and be able to prioritize them in the right order given the circumstances. They must be committed to the vision, their organization, and their values.
The commitment it takes to make decisions in the face of adversity and have your team respond without a flinch is forged long before the situation even occurs. It is a result of the vision you hold and more importantly how well you have shared it with your team. We talked about being a person worth following, but it’s equally as important to be headed somewhere worth going. Your team needs to know you have an end goal and a map on how to get there. It is your job to communicate this and live it in your actions. Every action of a leader should move the team a step closer to that vision. As long as you stay aligned with the vision, your team should (for the most part) understand and support even the toughest of decisions.
Great leaders don’t downplay the seriousness of tough decisions, but they also don’t shy away from making them. This is something I’ve seen play out too many times in both business and athletics. I’ve seen good leaders crippled by relationships, emotions, or the always dangerous court of public opinion. Great leaders consider these things, but don’t allow them to cloud their vision. If the decision that is best for the organization and the long-term vision isn’t met with overwhelming popularity, so be it. Great leaders can live with this and know their team will back them in the long term.
I keep returning to this concept of personal values because I believe its importance cannot be reiterated enough. The feeling of being pulled in a million directions is something every leader will experience. There will be pressure from the team, the administration or board, the outside world, and your own internal demons. These new strings pulling you can make it easy to start straying from your value system. Don’t let it. Stay committed to what grounds you. It is vital for leaders to keep their values in the forefront of their decision making and use them as a filtering system for information, decisions, and reactions.
Leadership Reflection Questions: Commitment
1. What hard decision or conversation have I been putting off because of external circumstances?
2. How often and in what ways do I communicate the vision to my team?
3. What external pressures do I consider when making decisions?
4. What actions have I taken to show my commitment to the vision?
5. What are our values? How are they showing up in our daily behaviors?
Having a deep commitment to your vision, organization, and values does not make you exempt from being human. There will be situations that push you to your breaking point. There will be decisions that keep you up at night. There will be push back and resistance when changing a culture or implementing new processes. The reality of being a leader is not being invincible or pretending not to be affected by these things. In fact, that is more dangerous in my opinion. Allow the challenges to come, seek counsel from those you trust, then move forward with the courage of your convictions knowing that you are acting with the best interest of the team in mind. “When the roots run deep, there is no reason to fear the wind.” – African Proverb