Monday, September 17, 2012

Simple Truth

There was an interesting contrast in the news over the last few days, a contrast in leadership.  One the one hand was an athlete; on the other was a series of politicians.  Both were explaining why the situation was quite going the way they wanted.  First, the athlete: Tom Brady, quarterback for the New England Patriots, after they lost to Cardinals: "We were fortunate to get that defensive turnover there late. We just came up short."  ‘We just came up short.’  Five words, and he explained what is obvious and accepts that they – and he – didn’t do their jobs.

Second, the President and all his various staff and handlers, trying to explain away the most recent mess in the Mid East, with a dead Ambassador and 3 other staff, several US embassies ‘trashed,’ ongoing demonstrations in front of several, others the sight of fairly violent demonstrations last week, and the President’s spokesman’s response that ‘this isn’t about the US or our policy’ as well as others adding what could only be called ludicrous statements that the attack in Libya wasn’t planned when virtually everyone outside the administration, to include the head of the Libyan government, asserts it was planned.

The reality is that admitting the truth is essential if you are going to get beyond your problem.  This is as true in leading a nation as it is in leading any business or organization.  Further, failure to recognize the truth of your situation not only will prevent you from making the right decisions, it will erode your relationship with the people who work for you and follow you.

There are “reasons” why politicians often fail to admit failures or mistakes (thought they are always foolish to do so; the same is even ‘more true’ for a businessman.  The leadership must focus on the goals of the company and achieving those goals.  The sooner you can recognize where you are failing, where you are falling short, the sooner you can adjust the plan and move on, focusing as always on the goal.

Further, overwhelmingly, the people who you will bump into in life – in business, in government, in your social settings – are disposed to be charitable.  Lawyers note it again and again in dealing with juries: juries – all juries – look for opportunities to ‘find innocence.’  The leader who stands up and says: ‘Well, that was a bad investment, I really gooned that, I’m sorry.  Let’s learn from that and press on,’ is routinely hailed by his associates and his followers.

Yet, we remain loath to do just that.  And by failing to do that, and by failing to embrace a process that aggressively and accurate reviews performance, thereby recognizing when performance has fallen off and that the plan needs ‘correction,’ we prolong the poor performance and make the correction that much longer and more difficult.

The simple truth is good leaders recognize that ‘it’s about the goal, it’s not about me.’   Bad leaders focus on the ‘me’ and try to deflect any and all criticism.  Be a good leader, recognize when you ‘came up short,’ use that recognition as an opportunity to adjust your plan, and press on towards your goal.


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