Leaders must start; they need not finish

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photo by D’Angel Barnhart

Leadership Distinction #52: Renewal

Renewal is a word that is packed with “do-over”. Whatever image or memory comes to mind for a person who hears the word Renewal, a 2nd chance and the emotional association with a restart is likely to surface with it. Consider some common phrases that include it: urban renewal, renewal of vows, license renewal, contract renewal. They say that something was paused or didn’t quite go as originally planned, or that will soon come to an end – unless there is: Renewal.

Why is this word such important vocabulary for leaders? Because most efforts to change things in the world will incur interruption, will meet with heavy resistance, will not go as planned, will run out of steam – will not come about in the way we wanted, will just disappoint. Leaders need to presume a future need for renewal, right out-of-the-gate, right at the point of registering the Concern that spurs them.

Anticipating, and planning for this forthcoming and inevitable need to renew, is one part of an essential two-part formula for leading in this age of complexity. The 2nd part is for the leader to be the starter, but not necessarily the finisher.

Now how can that make sense, you ask. If the cycle of leading completes when the intended change is brought about, why would any driver of change get off the vehicle before it crosses the line?

The leader who started the mission, who had the vision, who initiated the action, who secured the followers, may have enough in her individual tank to withstand a first round disappointment, and carry on. The commitment to the creation is strong for the creator. You hear that ‘it’s my baby’ language get used.

But will followers who typically ride in the back seat of the leader’s change agency bear up under the slings and arrows of misfortune along the arduous path? There’s one way to ensure it, and we’ve already declared the need to enable followers to share the vision in order to cope with the forces of complexity so the leader must go all the way with this. On occasion you give up the steering wheel and hop in the back seat. That may not have been what you originally expected. But things don’t often go as planned. And Renewal means do-over, not game over.

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Episode 51