We live in a world that is increasingly obsessed with quick fixes and instant gratification. We don’t have time to stop and get gas, even though we are running on fumes, because we left late. We don’t have time to stop and sharpen the saw because we are too busy trying—and failing—to cut the tree down. We don’t have the money to save or invest in retirement because we have to have that car/phone/vacation right now, instead of waiting until we can afford it. Examples abound, and I’m sure you can think of some of your own. The bottom line is that we end up being so focused on efficiency that we often end up sacrificing effectiveness as a result. All too often, we judge the potential solutions and strategies on how quickly and how well they are going to address the symptoms that we see right in front of us, while completely ignoring the cause of our discontent. This feeds the perpetual focus on fixing problems rather than creating a discontinuous shift in results, i.e. we ignore the roots of transformation to pursue the fruits of change.
This is the week that the United States celebrates the Thanksgiving, and, in fact, this blog is being posted on the exact day this year. Although to many Thanksgiving is a great occasion to take some time off from work and enjoy some good food with family and friends, it also provides a great opportunity to reflect on and give thanks for the many blessings we have in our lives. Even more than that, it is an invitation to examine our lives and try and appreciate the things that we take for granted, and to cultivate gratitude not only for what we consider the good, but also for things that we have complaints about and may be dissatisfied with.
Can you imagine if you didn’t have access to a mirror? Those who are not so concerned with their appearance might be thinking, “That might not be so bad!” But consider how you might feel if you were a model of some kind and your livelihood depended on making sure your appearance was just so. If you needed to make sure that your hair, clothing, make-up, etc. were just right, all in order to make a living, you wouldn’t ever want to be without some way of knowing how you looked and what adjustments you needed to make, right? That would be unacceptable. Now imagine having that same lack of awareness of how well you were doing and what adjustments you needed to make when it came to developing mastery in a certain field or learning to lead other people. What if you never received any feedback on your effectiveness, your performance, strengths, or areas of opportunity you needed to address? For a leader, that situation would be no less acceptable, and yet it is a reality for many of us.
The title of this post has probably already driven some people away and it may have some of you who decided to check it out wondering, “What does love got to do with leadership?” My answer is, of course, “Everything!” That may sound way too “kumbaya,” but I’m not going to apologize for it because it’s the truth. The bottom line is that if you do not love your people, you will fall short in leading them and you will most certainly not serve them to the best of your ability.
I’m going to let you in on a secret about me: I hate discipline! Not only do I hate it myself, I can’t even fathom why and how someone could like it at all. I mean, I understand that there is a lot of good stuff produced by exercising maturity and having the discipline to do what you don’t want to do in the present so that you get to have what you want to have in the future. I have personally experienced the joy of having accomplished a few things in my life that would not have been possible if I just did what I felt like at the time, but that doesn’t mean I like discipline. It just means that I like what discipline produces.