July 1997, Sydney, Australia. Together with thousands in the arena, I listened attentively, ferociously writing every word that was spoken. On the platform was John Maxwell in person. I’d read his books, but this was my first time hearing him speak live.
I made an important decision that day - to become a leader. 25 years later, I am still learning to become a leader.
“Events and conferences don’t make you a leader. Today (at this conference), it is important that you make a decision to become a leader. The hard work comes after this. That is the process of becoming a leader. Don’t get the two confused. One gets you started (the decision) and the other brings you over the finishing line (the process)” - John Maxwell (paraphrased).
We make decisions all the time - from daily mundane things to more significant long-term matters. Reading this article is already a decision! The decisions we make have consequences and impact on us. Leaders are making decisions today that will impact the lives of people and their organisations in the future.
Decision making is intentional. It is purposeful. If you have clarity of purpose, values and vision, decision making is with conviction and certainty. The reverse is also true. Kodak, once a global icon in film photography, is now a distant memory. The “Kodak moment” meant something worth savouring and remembering. Despite inventing the first prototype digital camera in 1975, Kodak failed to capitalise and invest into it. Had Kodak been intentional in pursuing their tagline “share memories, share life” it may have prevented the company filing for bankruptcy protection in 2012 and missing on a massive disruptive potential.
Decision making is taking ownership and responsibility. When you have ownership, you will (more) naturally be responsible. Think of a child who wanted a pet so badly. They are more inclined to be responsible to care for the pet. Think of an employee who took ownership for a project in your organisation. He / she is more likely to spend the extra hours making sure everything is running according to plan.
Decision making is putting a stake in the ground. Drawing a line in the sand. It is making a conscious choice and a stand. BP is recognised as a leader in the oil and gas industry when it comes to environmental, sustainability and governance (ESG) initiatives. Its sustainability framework focuses on getting to net zero by 2050, improving lives of people, and caring for the planet. They have boldly listed 20 aims to help them achieve this objective. Being in a high risk industry, BP continues to demonstrate commitment in managing these risks as reflected in their strong (positive) rating by Sustainalytics.
Decision making gets us to the starting line. To cross the finish line (fulfilling the decisions that were made), we need to focus on the process.
Process can be described as the (tiny) little steps that we take toward the decision. Often, this arduous journey is filled with obstacles and challenges. Unlike the 110-meter hurdle race, these barriers don’t end after the 10th hurdle.
Process requires hard work. Hard work that requires the discipline to keep working at it. The difference between intention and action, is discipline. We all have good intentions but good intentions aren’t just good enough. It needs to be translated into consistent and coherent actions. My friend who runs a drug rehabilitation centre, explains how discipline plays a critical role in the success of the programme. While it may appear regimented to the outsider, the daily routines and strict adherence to scheduled activities provide a foundation to rebuild healthy habits.
Related: Skill Will Only Get You So Far - Hard Work Matters Too
Process requires perseverance. It requires grit and determination. Having a growth mindset will help us see the light of day. I am amazed seeing how the athletes performed at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. Every athlete will have their own journey and story. Regardless who won medals, to see them competing at the games encapsulates the meaning of perseverance, grit and determination.
Read more: Perseverance is Key To Making Your Mark
Process requires us to be focused and stay focused. During a cataract eye surgery, your vision will be momentarily blurred and all you see are particles floating around. After the old lense has been removed, the ophthalmologist inserts the artificial lense. At that very moment, your sight is restored immediately. Everything around you is HD (high-definition) quality. Believe me, I know what I’m talking about!
Focus is like that. When you lose focus, everything is blurry and everything you see are like particles floating around. They don’t make sense. The result is stress. But when you are focused, it’s like an artificial lense that is inserted. You will have absolute clarity.
Focus is probably the toughest part of the process. The decision I made in 1997 (to become a leader) has been (and still is) tried and tested. Sometimes I come out victorious, other times I succumb to the distractions and attractions around me. I take comfort to know that failure is after all a speed bump and not a deadend. “It's better to go slow in the right direction than to go fast in the wrong direction. Our actions must continue to add value to us and the people around us” - Simon Sinek. My virtual health instructor reminds me constantly - remember, quality reps over quantity.
What decisions have you made (or will you need to make)? Whatever your decisions are, remember to focus on the process. One gets you to the starting line, the other will bring you over the finish line.
Cross that line!
Stay on and watch this video by Simon Sinek. Simon speaks about how the WHY serves as a compass that can guide you towards making decisions aligned with who you are.