Leadership: Shining Light On The Dark Side

“Men are moved by two levers only: fear and self interest.”

—Napoleon Bonaparte

I think of myself as an optimist, but there is a good deal of truth in Bonaparte’s assertion. In fact, if you were starting a business, it would be wise to think about how you might leverage that assertion to profitably monetize a solution.

Sales trainers will tell you that people buy for reasons of pain far more than betterment. A pessimist might say that someone who wants to achieve a brighter future or better him or herself is just someone running from fear of failure or from looking foolish. I don’t buy it, but there you go.

Many of the clients I work with have found themselves in some level of discomfort. Their strategy is outdated, they realize that they have a deficiency in required skills, or their team is dysfunctional. Fear causes them to act. If they act before the 11th hour (e.g. competition eats their lunch, they are about to get fired or the team is walking out the door), there is much that can be done. Even situations that seem dire can be resolved. (For more on that, click HERE.)

There are others, however, who are working on betterment for betterment’s sake. Call that self-interest if you’d like. How can I become a better leader? How can I get further ahead of my competition? How can I get my team to a state of true alignment and commitment? Great questions!

We all find ourselves in a bind on occasion. I haven’t yet met the person who could foresee all risk and potential obstacles. It serves us well to have a problem solving model at the ready. (If you need one, contact me and I’ll send you one.) But problem solving, by definition, is returning to the previous state. You got sidetracked and need to get back on the path. Innovating or improving your situation beyond the current state is a different animal and a different mindset.

As an executive, it is quite easy to get yourself into a mode of responding to problems and fretting over impending disasters. Both are required. However, I encourage you to also look at those areas of your skill set or your business that appear to be running smoothly and ask, “How do I get to the next level?” 

What got you here won’t get you there!

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