Trying to Apply Leadership Principles — Being Prepared, Adjusting to Circumstances & Learning

February 17, 2008 5:32 pm Published by

I write about the principles of leadership that I either observe in successful business owners and managers, or what I read in books and articles on leadership. So it makes sense that I should try to apply these principles, as well.

Here I am, waiting in an airport, delayed due to weather in Chicago (where I am hoping to go). So I am trying to apply a couple of principles I frequently hear about — be prepared, and be willing to adjust to life’s circumstances.

I have traveled enough over the past several years to know that there is always a fair chance of delays. As a result, I load myself up with materials needed to get tasks done while waiting. Reading materials, paper & pad (for writing, in case I don’t have access to electricity and my battery dies), my laptop, and projects to work on — all are the typical supplies I bring. So right now, I am hooked into the airport computer access system and writing my blog for the week.

Those are my specifics for this week. What are yours? What things are wise or prudent for you to have with you in order to “be prepared”? It could relate to objects you need in your car in case you have a wreck or slide off the road. It could be items that would be good to have with you in case a meeting cancels or the person you are scheduled to have lunch with doesn’t show up.

Now the second principle — being able (and willing) to adjust to life circumstances. Part of this has to do with expectations — I now expect to have delays while flying between 33% to 50% of the time. So I try not to get exceptionally upset or frustrated when it happens. Delays are part of travel in the “hub and spoke” airline system we have.

The other part of adjusting to changes in circumstances is not having a schedule that is inflexible. If you are too tightly scheduled, there is no room for adjustment. And sometimes, your plans just aren’t going to happen as you plan. And I really am talking more broadly than about travel — life’s circumstances affect us when external forces outside of our control impact the economy and our business, when we have a car wreck, when we get sick, and so forth.

In what areas of your life are you too tightly scheduled? Where do you really get irritated or agitated when circumstances don’t go smoothly? For me, it’s often in the smaller spots of life — daily appointments, driving in traffic, not being able to reach people on the phone. For whatever reason, I seem to do better with the bigger events and struggle in the smaller ones. What are the growth areas for you in learning to adjust to changes in your life’s circumstances?

The final principle (the one that I was going to focus on in this entry before my travel delays occurred) is that of learning. A repetitive theme in the literature on leadership is that leaders (and future leaders) are learners. They learn from others. They are observant. They are self-motivated to learn through reading, seminars, and workshops.

One theme I have observed is that individuals who are successful in “life” (that is, in managing their lives personally and professionally) is that they often integrate principles and concepts from divergent areas. It it good to be knowledgeable and competent in your professional area of expertise. But, in many ways, that is baseline — it is expected. Leaders learn from other areas of life and apply those principles to their business or relationships. For example, I remember one author that taught relational leadership behaviors that he learned from his hobby of competitive sailing. Another executive of an organization I know is always asking his friends what they are learning.

I read a lot. And I try to “keep up” in the fields in which I practice — psychology, business succession, wealth transfer, family relationships, and the various struggles individuals and families have. But I find my true value comes when I can bring information from one area to another (e.g. I am finding parallels in the principles in working with family-owned businesses to the area of family foundations, many of the challenges are similar.)

The reason I was planning on writing on this “learning” principle is because I am headed to Chicago for training in a new computer-based program for ADHD individuals that has been shown to have an 80% success rate in helping them with the issues of attention, concentration, distractibility, organizational skills, difficulties learning & retaining information. The research is impressive and I am excited to learn about this program. I’ll let you know what I find out — and how it may relate to some seemingly unrelated area of life.

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February 17, 2008 5:32 pm

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