Things We Can Choose…

None of us are, or can be perfect. That’s something that’s reserved for [ ] (fill in the blank with you personal meta).

But all of us can be authentic, transparent, courageous and can act with integrity. 

Those qualities lie at the very base of what it takes to earn the right to lead. If you find yourself unable to deliver them consistently, you should step aside. If you don’t, wait awhile, you’ll be found out and one day you’ll look around and no one will be following you.

We cannot decide to have the genius product sense of Steve Jobs. But all of us can decide to be authentic.

Allow me to suggest a small experiment. Find the nearest mirror, walk over and ask yourself, “Who’s that?” Now, whatever the answer is, follow up with, “Is that who I am when I’m with others? Really? Those imperfections over there — the ones I can’t shake — can I let them show in public? Those unpolished bits too — the ones that distinguish me from some edited version of ‘me’ — how do I feel about those?” If your answer tends toward, “Yup, I’m not ideal, but I’m not bad, and generally speaking, I am who I am with all comers,” you’re on the right track toward authenticity.

None of us can choose to have the genius at capital allocation possessed by Warren Buffett, but we can choose to be transparent.

Are you willing to allow others access to more than just some managed subset of information about what you’re doing? If you’re going to presume to get out in front of the pack and be the lead dog — you’d better. While I think that, even in this age of Twitter, people still have respect for the concept of privacy, I know that expectations have changed, especially as applied to leaders. Fail to afford a view of not just what you’ve decided but how, why and what alternatives you’ve considered along the way, and you’ll not win the strength of support you need to be effective. Our times are just too cynical. You be the one that provides information on what’s not working so well in your business, rather than some investigative reporter, and that information is received and analyzed in an entirely more benign light.

Perhaps none of us can flip a switch and decide to have the inventive genius of Thomas Edison, but all of us can decide to act with courage.

In my experience, including with respect to my own personal actions, I’ve seen that many, perhaps most, poor decisions are caused by the failure to summon up the courage to do the right thing, take a risk or expose oneself to ridicule. Weakness and timidity debilitate and feed on themselves. You lose confidence in yourself and others lose faith in your leadership. Conversely, conspicuous acts of courage embolden you and energize your team. (Oh, and it’s not that hard. The negative consequences of a courageous act are never as bad as feared, if they materialize at all.)

We might not be born with the native genius of Richard Feynman, but we all can choose to be honest and true to ourselves, always. Tactics can and should be adjusted situationally, core principles not. If you are seen not as one person, reliably consistent in character, but rather as an illusive actor, shifting about for gain or convenience what should be bedrock principles, you’ll be seen as lacking integrity, and others will flee, not follow. Unless you’re afflicted with a deep personality disorder, you ARE one person. You stand for one set of things. Make sure your acts and utterances reflect that integrity, and your team will trust you. That investment of trust is what makes leadership possible.

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