Last week’s resignation of Travis Kalanick as CEO of Uber reminds us that how we achieve our goals matters as much as what we achieve. How we achieve success is as important as the innovative, profitable, or extraordinary results we get.
It’s a poignant reminder of: “What we practice grows stronger.”
What we do everyday shapes who we are. For instance, if we value and do our work with care, truth, and respect, we become caring, honest, and trustworthy leaders. Similarly, when we promote greed, tolerate prejudice, and bury our heads in delusion, we become selfish, hostile, and dishonest leaders.
This is why it is imperative that we be aware of our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. If we aren’t aware of what we are practicing each day, we unconsciously repeat the same old patterns without seeing how they are shaping us. We can also grow distant from our vision of who we are, what we are about, and the world we want to create and live in.
We gradually forget what matters to us, and our thoughts, words, and deeds drift away from our values. Integrity leakage is inevitable—what we do to accomplish our goals at any cost does not align with what we value and honor in ourselves and people around us. We forget what launched us on our grand adventure to begin with, and when we lose our way, our vision cannot find us either.
It also reminds us of the importance of surrounding ourselves with people who care for us and tell us when we go off path.
Mentors, teachers, guides, and coaches can help us course-correct when we feel lost, uncertain, or forget who we are. They can guide us when we fall off the path, remind us who we are and reflect back to us who we are becoming. As leaders, we need people who we trust, and can turn to for help, when we feel vulnerable and unsure of ourselves.
There is more than one way to deal with the walls in our way.
I remember how this remark in a New York Times article struck me a couple of months ago:
“Travis’s biggest strength is that he will run through a wall to accomplish his goals,” said Mark Cuban, the Dallas Mavericks owner and billionaire investor who has mentored Mr. Kalanick. “Travis’s biggest weakness is that he will run through a wall to accomplish his goals. That’s the best way to describe him.”
As someone who is result-oriented myself, I confess doing my share of running through walls to accomplish goals in the past. I can attest that it often caused more harm than the goals could justify. The negative impact wasn’t just landing on me. It also splattered to others around me: my team, family, and friends.
The truth is that there are many more ways to reach our goals than running through a wall. The question is: Are we willing to: (i) pause, step back and see the whole picture clearly, including the wall, (ii) assess what choices and possibilities present themselves, and (iii) consult with those around us to decide the best option to implement? When we skip this process under pressure, how often does the speed we gain in getting to the finish line truly justify the cost, harm, and unfortunate aftermath?
When we encounter a wall along the way toward our goals, acting on our first impulse is rarely the best strategy. We must respond skillfully and responsibly. The process involves remembering the vision that got us started in the venture, seeing clearly the obstacle in front of us, and assessing all the resources we have within us, as well as the people around us whose insight, knowledge, and experience can contribute to creating viable paths.
When we are aware of our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors, and consciously practice living our values, we develop the inner resources we need to respond to the walls in our path. And when we work together with people whom we trust and respect, they too can help us see multiple possibilities for getting past the wall: go over it, under it, around it, or through it if necessary, with minimum impact. We can make the best possible decision to proceed.
As a leader, what are you practicing every day knowingly and unknowingly?
How can you gain more clarity to see multiple options and choose the best next step?
Who can help you accomplish what matters most to you in alignment with your values?
A leader’s primary role is to lead by walking the path between the present and the future of her vision. What does “walking the path” look like? Seeing reality as it is, not as she wishes, expects, or wants it to be; making good decisions that are win-win-win for the employees, customers, and investors; and communicating clearly the direction for her employees to succeed. And how the leader walks this path makes all the difference.
(Image: “Roman Roads Stopped Here! Hadrians Wall, Northumberland, England” by bestfor / richard under a CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license)
Today’s leaders have a tough job, and it’s not getting easier. If you are leading change that matters to you and to the world, and looking for a guide to co-navigate unknown and unchartered territory, let’s connect!