Not too long ago, I faced a very difficult time.
One of the greatest challenges of my life…
This is nothing new, as many of us have faced hardship, in some cases, extreme hardship, over the last several years. I had left a long-time position as a senior recruiter at an executive search firm but was soon working as an in-house recruiting manager for a tech start-up. I recognized rather quickly that I wanted more for myself. I had tampered with completing my business degree but I had always been so caught up in my work and family that I just didn’t have the time. How could I possibly squeeze one more thing into my already crammed day/week/month/year?
As a corporate recruiter with a fledgling company, I didn’t have much to offer jobseekers by way of salary or company brand, but one of the initiatives that aided me in the recruitment process was the extensive business training that was offered to and actually required of each new hire. It was touted as a “Mini-MBA” of sorts and was very intensive. Multiple business books were required reading, including “The Fifth Discipline” and “Diffusion of Innovation” – not exactly light reading. However, we were also expected to read such delightful fare as “The Fred Factor” and “The Purple Cow” by my one of my faves, Seth Godin.
One such book was entitled No Excuse Leadership by Brace Barber. It related stories from the Army Ranger School and the trials and evils faced by participants there. As I read through the pages with images of men and women struggling to finish a mud run or climb through a barbed wire obstacle course, I realized my days of fighting traffic on the 55 and piles of laundry were really nothing compared to mud up my nose and days on end without sleep. If these leaders-in-the-making could survive their training, then I could certainly go back to school and accomplish what I really wanted and ultimately needed to do for my career.
As I was reading No Excuse Leadership, I made the decision right then and was registered for fall classes by the next afternoon. Throughout my time going “back to school”, I was often cranky, exhausted, felt like I couldn’t think one more thought or write one more line but I never regretted my decision or toyed with the idea of dropping a course or excusing myself from the whole, tiring process. For indeed, it was grueling but that was no excuse and nothing felt so good as accepting a diploma for something I had worked so hard to achieve. Nothing.
Leadership requires one to let go of preconceived notions of how to listen and how to guide. This is a distinct difference from management, which requires structure and discipline and tends to be separate and independent of the recognition that each participant brings something unique and wonderful to a team. Management is the letter of the law, whereas leadership is the spirit of the law. We often disregard the impact others may have on our actions or choices, citing sovereign thought and procedure. Be quick to recognize that reasons stand behind every aspect of life, from decisions to what just is.
Reasons, yes. Excuses, no.