When I was a teenager, I worked for my uncle and cousin as a farm boy. There are lessons that I learned during those days that have stayed with me throughout my life.
One day, I drove into a muddy patch on a dirt road. I drove into it, but not out of it. I got stuck. Really stuck. I ruined a set of tires trying to get out of that mess because I didn’t want to walk a few miles to ask my uncle to use the tractor to pull me out. So instead, I lost a lot of time trying to get out, ruined the tires, and then I still had to walk to get help from my uncle. Lesson learned? Don’t be too proud to ask for help when you need it.
That’s not the last mess that I’ve created or found myself in. I’m sure that you have found yourself stuck in a mess more than a few times. Sometimes the thing that’s worse than the mess is what we do or don’t do to get out of it. The obvious thing is to ask ourselves the question: “What’s the right thing to do now?”
It’s easy to say that when we’re not in a mess, but it’s amazing how often we forget to ask that question when we are actually in the mess. Why is that?
We often just don’t want to admit that we are in a mess due to our own pride. The problem is that when we are overly concerned with our own reputation, we don’t think clearly about what’s really the right thing to do.
Sometimes we fear the repercussions of the mess we are in. So rather than thinking about the right thing to do, given the current circumstances, we lose a lot of energy worrying about how someone or some group will react.
Sometimes it’s not our fault. However, allowing ourselves the luxury of convicting others in the court of our own mind for what’s happened, is probably only preventing us from asking the questions that can lead to a solution.
Unfortunately, there are times when we excuse ourselves from what we know is the right behavior because someone else failed to do the right thing. Good leaders don’t do that, though.
Good leaders have the emotional fortitude, the self-awareness, the discipline, and the maturity to put aside things of which they have no control. Instead, they ask the right question: “What’s the right thing to do now?” That leads them to solutions—not accusations—and helps strengthen their leadership.
Chief Operations Officer, Strategic Government Resources