Prairie Trail Logo

Views from the Prairie

July 21

Leadership Matters

Any competent manager is able to organize the team to give profits and get sufficient rewards for doing that. But management is not leadership and strong company profits can be the sign of good luck instead of good leadership. Good leadership pulls people together from both inside and outside the organization for a common purpose and towards the greater good.

It is easy to think we are leading when things are going well. It is easy to go to the parties and to bask in the glow of quick sales. We can have arrogance when the company founded in the college dorm room has grown to a huge size. Easy victories can hide any incompetence.

Leadership matters when things are not going well. Leadership comes when we have failed and we need to find a new purpose and a new way to be in business.

Leadership shines after failure. Failure happens to the best of people. Even those who have many flaws and addictions can be transformed by the process of failure and redemption into greater leaders than they were before. How we respond to failures and loss exposes our character. We rarely make it back to glory when we carry grudges, try to deny the failure, or nurse the hurt and shame of failure.

Leadership starts with leading ourselves. We start with honestly confronting who we are, cleaning up issues left over from our past, and finding a purpose in helping others. By leading ourselves, we offer honest leadership to others instead of trying to "con" them into doing what we want.

Leadership involves pulling people together into a team focused on achieving a goal bigger than themselves. Leadership finds the right people for that team. Leadership finds a goal outside of themselves and helps the team win.

We have to have a goal of helping the community or the country as a whole. To lead, we have to have a passion for others in a way that pulls more people in and directs them towards helping others.

Leadership matters the most when "the chips are down", when the future is in the most doubt, when people can't see how we can work together for the good of all, and when we don't have the money to pay them. When we can show that even volunteering will be for the good of the country, we lead people towards the better future that we hold up for them. Faith in the goal can help pull us through years of trouble and toil when we don't see any results.

Leadership matters when there are both real problems and real opportunities. Managing the problems can only lead to being "good". Leadership focuses on making the most of the opportunities.

Charismatic leaders often fail because of their charisma. When an organization becomes focused on one person instead of the team, the organization often slides into mediocracy because it lacks the broader perspective that a team can give and lacks the larger focus that an outside purpose can give.

Leadership matters - because it gives us a richer purpose for our efforts.

Unlearning What We Know

There is a video of a woman throwing a major fit at an airport after missing a flight and the gate agent would not call the plane back. This woman "knew" how things should be. Now, she has to unlearn what she knew.

In business, often we jump into a situation "knowing" the answer only to be proven wrong when customers don't buy what we built, don't accept our knowledge, or resources don't work the way that we know they should. We have to unlearn what we thought we knew.

This unlearning can be painful especially when we learned that "knowledge" very early in life. We resist unlearning. We try to find ways to make our "knowledge" to be true. People have paid businesses, elected politicians, and even worked to get justices on the Supreme Court to try to force our "knowledge" to be true. Many fail to unlearn. Repeat criminal offenders have not unlearned their ideas of how the world works and how they can operate.

While unlearning is painful, being able to unlearn and learn what matches our new reality is often far more profitable. Unlearning requires being able to perceive reality and having the hope for and the willingness to look for a way to profit from that reality. This takes both time and reflection.

In business, it is vital to take the weekends off, the vacation time away from the office, and to not let work dominate our whole lives. We need the connection with a reality outside of the edifice we have created in order to see how things have changed since we started and how our perceptions have been warped by the pressures of business. Just don't throw a major fit when the vacation doesn't go as planned. That just may be part of the unlearning / learning process.

Risky World

There are so many products out there and more invented every day. Some are simply a rebranding of existing products. Recently, someone challenged the world by making up a new imaginary AWS product (Infinidash) and betting that it would show up in job listings within a week. It only took three days. There are product announcements, coffee mugs, and a book cover already for this imaginary product. Infinidash Rules!


This newsletter is posted here as well as sent via mail and email. If you wish to receive updates, please sign up above.