What is the leader’s best friend?
John Maxwell calls momentum “the great exaggerator.” It makes you appear better than you really are or worse than you really are. You know when you have it and you wish you had it when you don’t.
It is so important to try and keep your momentum when you have it. In my work with student leaders, there are times throughout the year when we naturally have increased momentum. For instance, the start of the school year is a time of momentum because everyone has a lot of energy and excitement for what lies ahead. But the natural momentum we possess can be easily lost.
It’s harder to create momentum then it is to maintain it.
Leaders must be mindful of those things that can work against the momentum they’ve worked so hard to build. Here are what I consider to be 5 of the most lethal momentum killers that can stop any organization or team in it’s tracks.
NOTE: This is a guest post by Dennis N.T. Perkins, Author of Leading at The Edge, Leadership Lessons from the Extraordinary Saga of Shackleton’s Antarctic Expedition, Second Edition. The subtitle of this post is: A Comparison of Historic Antarctic Expedition Commanders
“For scientific discovery give me Scott; for speed and efficiency of travel give me Amundsen; but when disaster strikes and all hope is gone, get down on your knees and pray for Shackleton.” — Sir Edmund Hillary
On December 14, 1911, Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen and his team made history as the first expedition to reach the South Pole. Thirty-five days later, on January 17, 1912, British explorer Robert Falcon Scott reached the South Pole, with five exhausted men. None survived the brutal journey home. Another noted British explorer, Sir Ernest Shackleton, never reached the South Pole. While failing to achieve the first overland crossing of Antarctica, Shackleton succeeded at bringing all 27 members of his expedition party safely home, after 634 days of unbelievable hardship, and winning their cooperation, commitment, respect, and admiration.
Some one hundred years later, fascination with the race to the South Pole continues. And so do debates over which of the three Antarctic commanders was the best leader. To gain deeper insights into one of the most exciting and controversial chapters in the history of leadership under adversity, Dennis N.T. Perkins devoted a decade to research, including traveling to the Antarctic to study the trailblazing paths of these famed expeditions. As he shares in his book, LEADING AT THE EDGE (AMACOM; March 29, 2012), the polar adventures of Shackleton, Scott, and Amundsen provide fundamental leadership lessons for any leader — no matter what race must be run:
I sat in a meeting that was becoming heated over the direction the organization was going. I wasn’t in charge, in fact, I was only there as a requirement of my position. The debate was going nowhere and I was squirming due to the lack of leadership being taken in the discussion.
At one point, I finally broke into the fray and made this statement:
“I believe this group is at a crossroads and won’t be able to come to a reasonable decision because this organization is ill-defined.”
The obvious quiet that followed showed me that I hit a nerve and that I had now put many of them on the defensive. One of the key members of the group turned to me and asked, “What do you mean by ill-defined?”
I replied, “There is no corporate sense among you that you know what it is you are striving for, trying to achieve, what this organization actually stands for?”
I was in it now. No turning back. We went back and forth. He wanted to solve the immediate problem and I wanted the group to consider solving the problem in light of the Big Picture. What was the guiding, consistent direction that the group should adhere to in not only this decision, but in every decision?
Finally, he said this: “You know, we already have a mission statement.”
You can’t do everything.
If you don’t understand that now, you’ll learn soon enough when you try and tackle more than you’re able to handle. For student leaders, it is especially true. When you start to feel the effects of the Determination Season, you are getting close to reaching the end of your student leader year. It’s at this point you realize you won’t be able to accomplish everything you had hoped to. With time running out, you must now choose what your focus will be in the remaining weeks you have left.
Let’s be honest, your highest priority may not be your student leadership position. It could be your studies, your job, your family, your relationships, etc. If your leadership responsibilities don’t even make it into your top three overall priorities, it is even more important to identify what is most important for you to work on within your student leadership role.
Tiny Wings is the heart-pounding story of a multicolored bird with disproportionately small (need I say, tiny) wings. Driven to flee it’s home, it must embark on a journey through uncharted and treacherous landscapes. It is an engrossing tale of one feathered creature’s attempt to overcome personal limitations and environmental obstacles.
Actually, Tiny Wings is just a simple game I play on my iPhone. Sorry… I couldn’t resist the dramatic introduction.
My friend, Brad Strawn, calls the game “zen-like.” I’d have to agree. Its controls are simple. Touch the screen (anywhere on the screen) to create a gravitational pull that helps this little bird move quickly over the hills and through the valleys it encounters. The point is, this bird can’t really fly (because it has tiny wings). It is up to you to press and release at the right time, giving the bird momentum as it slides across each island it encounters.
The game is certainly addicting. I even dedicated a previous post to it about a year ago – Tiny Wings: My New Favorite iPhone Game.
As with most of my experiences, I’ve taken the time to look at Tiny Wings through a leadership lens. There are some great lessons we can pull from this simple game.
Yesterday, in my post about Introducing Twitter to Millenials, I mentioned my book, Tweedership.
Tweedership is a compilation of a year’s worth of tweets on the topic of leadership. It’s packed full of ideas, wisdom, lessons, insights, and advice on leading well (both yourself and others).
To give you a sample of what you’ll find in Tweedership, I picked a random page to share all of the tweets on that page. So without any further ado, here’s page 21:
What is something that is free but extremely valuable? Encouragement. Take the time to give someone the free gift of encouragement today.
Helping student leaders learn to pay attention by slowing down. Less busyness = more awareness!
Many times creativity comes through conversation. Are you talking to those around you? Or going it alone? Conversations unveil creativity.
Good character is crucial. Don’t make a promise in the moment that can’t be fulfilled in the future.
Practice doesn’t make one perfect. Practice makes one better prepared.
Many things in life are all about vantage point and perspective. Trouble leading people lately? Try to see life through their point of view.
Some people don’t change when they see the light. Instead they wait until they feel the heat.
How do you get people excited and on board with something you are doing? Make it easy, make it personal, make it something with meaning.
If your leadership vision keeps changing all the time, it’s not a vision…it’s a mirage.
If you liked Page 21, check out the rest of Tweedership – visit tweedership.com.
I work on a University campus. Everyone is on Facebook.
I watch my own children in both Middle School and High School. All of their friends are on Facebook.
I speak at a variety of youth events. Facebook rules their time on the internet.
A 2011 Nielson Report shows that globally, people spend 53 BILLION minutes a month on Facebook. The next closest social media usage was YouTube with 9.1 billion minutes a month.
Twitter hasn’t caught on with Millennials yet. I think this is due to a couple of factors:
1. Facebook does everything Millennials want.
2. All the Millennials are on Facebook.
When I mention Twitter to my Millennial friends, I’m often met with blank stares or a response like, “Oh, I signed up for a Twitter, but I’ve never really used it.” I can understand that. Facebook is the common community with this emerging generation. Twitter seems to be more useful and used by an older demographic. It seems that Generation X is more apt to drink the Twitter Kool-Aid. This includes me.
Every once in awhile, I wonder what life would be like if I had a super power. I think about how cool it would be if I could fly, or move things with my mind, or be invisible. Super powers give super heroes a distinct advantage.
I think the same thing can be said about perspective. If you have a larger, more informed perspective, you’ll be able to see things that others won’t. Anais Nin is credited with saying, “We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.” So true. We all have our own stance on things. Oftentimes, our stance is something we take for granted. This idea of “it’s just who I am” governs our unquestioned assumptions about the “way things are.” This means our stance, our perspective, our assumptions make up a model of reality that may not be all that real.
The late Sumantra Ghoshal, a London Business School professor, noted how we tend to find a path through life and then stick with it. We head in one direction and work to reinforce and amplify that path, in both good and bad ways. At some point, the only thing that can influence us toward a new path or broadening the path we’re on is a different perspective.