Why success in leadership is a moving target

Consider for a moment that you’re exploring a new career opportunity. The job description reads something like this… “Candidates must be prepared to accept relentless change, succeed in areas outside his or her comfort zones, make decisions that will impact the livelihoods of others, work as many hours as necessary to produce measurable results, accept responsibility for the mistakes of others, be able to handle high levels of stress, know how to manage cash flow, and be held personally accountable for the success or failure of the business.” Wow, I bet you’re saying to yourself, “This sounds like the job opportunity of a lifetime!” Actually, I bet you’re thinking that only a nut case would take a job like that. Guess what? You’re a leader and that job description is yours. (Hey, it’s mine too.)

Leadership is something you can get better at – but never perfect. This simple truth is why leadership is, and always will be, a moving target. The best leaders work hard at enhancing their leadership skills. They hire coaches to push and hold them accountable. They live the concept of continuous improvement. The bulk of the leadership population seems to be on a quest to find the “magic pill.” They do seek to improve and step up their game, but mostly when situations push them to. The rest just don’t get it and find more ways to hold the title of “leader” but don’t do the work. They function in a world of blame and excuses. Tough stuff to read – but true.

Leadership is a moving target because of the following:

  • The enormity of “relentless change”: Try as you might, it is impossible to halt change. As a leader, there are only three choices; do nothing, go with it, or lead change. If you do nothing while the world around is changing, you and the company you lead will become irrelevant. Travel agencies did nothing and became irrelevant. Expedia and Tavelocity chose to lead change. If you just go along with change, you’re competing with the masses. If you lead change, your competition becomes irrelevant. You stay focused on the moving target while others lose sight of it.
  • The double whammy: It’s one thing to lead a company to success, but to simultaneously develop yourself as leader adds an entirely new level of complexity. This is especially so for entrepreneurs. It’s common to see a business grow beyond the abilities of its leader. Given this, the aspirations of many leaders to take their companies to the next level will never be fulfilled if they chose to stop growing as a leader. Note that I used the word “chose.” Self-development and achieving one’s full potential as a leader, or anything else in life, is a choice.
  • The people factor: Leading people and creating dynamic business cultures is more complex and challenging than leaders ever imagined. That’s why some leaders that excel at start-ups and turnaround situations flounder once the excitement of the challenge is behind them. In contrast, other leaders are amazing at refining and growing solid companies. Only an impressive few are capable of doing both. The dynamics of leading people to achieve a shared vision in a variety of business situations will always remain a process of continuous leadership development.

So pat yourself on the back for being a leader. You play the leading role in your own success story. If you want the ending to show you standing on the top of the mountain, you must accept the simple truth that leadership is a moving target. Only those leaders that are relentlessly focused on the target will climb that mountain. Those that don’t will only get so far – but at least they tried. And there will always be those that dream of climbing the mountain, but never take that first big step off the base. Keep the moving target of leadership in your sights and you’re bound to hit the bullseye.

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Please share your thoughts with me about today’s Monday Morning Wake-Up. Click the Comment button above.

Neil Ducoff, Founder & CEO of Strategies and author of No-Compromise Leadership

Pass this e-mail on to your business colleagues, managers and friends. They’ll appreciate it.


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