The beginning of a school year, the start of a project, or the launch of a campaign are moments filled with energy and hopeful enthusiasm. Everyone is excited at the start of something. I just returned from a weekend retreat with the new freshman students on our campus. There was a palpable sense of anticipation and excitement. Up to this point, everyone has straight A’s. As a leader, I would encourage you to take advantage of the built-in momentum that comes with each new beginning. Leadership is easier at the beginning because this momentum carries a team through the initial bumps in the road. It will become more difficult to lead when this momentum begins to fade. It is harder to create momentum than it is to maintain momentum.So in these beginning moments of natural momentum and excitement, don’t waste it. Make the most of it. Work hard to maintain it.
1. Connect with people.
As the leader, it is your responsibility to connect with the people you lead, not the other way around. Take time to listen to what’s on the hearts and minds of others. Find ways to encourage and support others in all aspects of their lives. Your connections with other people will be stronger if they are based on who you are more than what you do. This is why we take all of our freshman on a retreat. The level of friendship and feelings of connectedness occur much more quickly when we can spend time together awayfrom all of the work of doing.
2. Look ahead.
In all of the excitement and energy that comes with the start of something, it is easy to overlook what comes next. In my experience, starting is only one step on the journey toward finishing. There is a temptation to just enjoy the momentum of the moment and not think about how this moment will effect the next moment and the next moment and the next moment (which is exactly what momentum does). Simply put, you should have some idea where you and your team are going. You need to get a 30,000 foot view of the situation. By looking ahead, you can anticipate what the team will need further into the journey. If you get caught by surprise, your team will be caught by surprise.
3. Pay the price now.
I learned a powerful principle of leadership from John Maxwell that went something like this…
You can play now and pay later, or you can pay now and play later. If you choose to play now and pay later, the cost you’ll pay will be much higher. Either way, you are going to have to pay.
You probably learned this principle as well when your parents told you to eat your vegetables first. Or when you tackled the tough homework assignment before doing the easier stuff. Get the difficult stuff out of the way on the front end and you’ll enjoy the back end more. This is a choice you get to make in your leadership. Let me define the terms pay and play a little better. Pay is the areas we must invest, labor, and work at to be effective as a leader. Leadership costs something. If you are willing to put the hard work in on the front end to build relationships, cast vision, and set expectations it will have a direct bearing on how much you are able to play. Play is the blessings and results that come about as a result of paying the price of leadership. It’s all the things you are able to enjoy at the start of something because of the work that you (or the person who came before you) put in to make it happen. If you choose to play on the front end, you will find it more difficult to establish systems, recruit others, and inspire your followers on the back end. The momentum of the moment is on your side right now. I encourage you to take full advantage of it.