Last week, we looked at how leaders are planners. But all the plans in the world are really nothing more than wishes, if you never act on them.
One of the slogans for our parent organization, the American Taekwondo Association (ATA), is “Always Take Action.” We often add, “Leaders always take action.” No doubt you’ve heard the old saying, “The journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step.” That step is someone taking action.
If you want to go somewhere, you have to leave where you are. This may involve some discomfort. Leaders are willing to pay the price of being a little uncomfortable now, to be very comfortable later.
Leaders also understand that sometimes you have to take a risk. It may be a calculated risk, but it’s still a risk. Sometimes we don’t take action because of the chance for failure. But there will always be some failure.
Even the best professional batters still don’t even hit 6 out of 10. They strike out, pop out, and sometimes line drive out. But they know that when they step up to the bat, they’re going to get some good swings at it. They look forward to it.
We often struggle with decision making too. I like to use the example of someone standing in the middle of the road with a bus bearing down on them. Unable to commit to a direction, they freeze, right in the one place where they are certain to be hit. At some point, you just have to go for it.
Good leaders also understand that change starts with them. They also don’t wait for everyone to jump on board, before leaving the dock, because they know that not everyone will be willing to chance it. So they cast off, even by themselves, if necessary.
Great ones also know how to gather people around them to get a job done. They lead themselves, and their success attracts others. In every case though, they take action.
Finally, sometimes action takes the form of no action. This is extremely hard to do, especially for type-A personalities who are used to doing something. But the decision NOT to act is still a decision, and the deliberate action of not acting, is really still taking an action. Sorry if that sounds a little too Zen!
Next week, we’ll look at some other personal characteristics of leaders. I’m hoping if I talk about them enough, I’ll absorb them myself! Right now, I’m looking at my action list, and I’ve got one more I can cross off for today.