There is a goal that many leaders are declaring these days. It sounds noble. It has an air of purpose and meaning about it. But it is actually a goal that is death to great leadership.
Let’s confront this together.
The goal I’m talking about is “surviving.” I have had a dozen leaders say to me recently, “I just want to survive this. If I can just survive this pandemic and these hard economic times, I’ll be fine.”
Sounds good, doesn’t it? But it isn’t. The word survive means to live, to exist, to remain, or to outlast. In other words, to still be around after the fact. Yet the goal of merely surviving is not one that fuels great leadership or accomplishment.
Think about it. If you went to bed right now and didn’t get up for a year but for bodily functions and eating, you would be surviving. You would still be alive on the other side of a great many things that might be plaguing you now. Yet you would make no difference in anyone’s life. You would grow nothing. You would create nothing. And, frankly, much that is your responsibility would wither and all because you made it your goal to merely survive.
Leadership is not just outlasting. It is thriving. It is besting. It is mastering. It is facing a season of challenge and allowing hardship to make you better, innovating in the face of change, and determining to be more successful in every way on the other side than you were when the hard days began. Doing this—and inspiring it in others and building it into your firm—is what leadership is all about.
So, here are a few practical tactics for going beyond survival in hard times to besting hard times.
First, ask the question I’ve urged you to ask in the face of every crisis: What does this make possible? In other words, what are the advantages of my new and difficult situation that might lead to wonderful advancement?
Second, set goals. As soon as hard times hit, a good leader knows that he or she will arrive on the other side one day. This is a given. But what will their condition be when that day comes? The answer is determined by goals achieved through hard work. To put it another way, goal-setting lifts us above merely surviving to strategic accomplishment.
Third, build habits. I have a friend who at the start of the Covid-19 lockdowns realized he had the potential to let himself fall apart physically. He decided to do two things daily. He would do as many push-ups as possible and he would run the stairs in his building until he reached the failure point. You should see him now these months later. He’s trimmer, more muscular, and vibrant looking. Why? He instituted habits, and habits that frankly didn’t take that long each day but that did counter the negative drift of his challenges. So, remember: When facing hard times, build habits that push against the negative pressure you face.
Finally, feed vision. We sink into mere survival mode because we can’t envision a victorious future. Fight for that vision. Read scripture. Pray. Read history. Pray. Feed on inspiring stories. Pray. Pull encouraging people around you. Pray. And by the way, have a little fun too. Sometimes the greatest reminder of the good days ahead is a laugh with friends or a rowdy time with the kids in the backyard.
You are made to do more than survive these times. You are made to lead and transform. Go to it.