The Inspiring Truth about Leading and Losing

man-with-hand-plow

We love winners.

The leaders who made it to the top.

Leaders with a great story.

Accomplishments.

Achievements.

Success.

It’s useful to recognize the positive traits of successful leaders.

But don’t believe all the hype.

Correlation does not imply causation.

Not everyone who succeeds is a great leader.

Many people succeed in spite of their leadership.

Not everyone who fails is a poor leader.

Great leadership doesn’t guarantee a happy ending.

 

If we choose leadership as a path to success.

Or only when it serves our ambitions.

We’re missing the point.

Leadership isn’t something we put on when it’s convenient.

Leadership doesn’t run from the lost cause.

Leadership doesn’t avoid the long odds.

Leadership doesn’t lay low until the time is right.

 

For every success story, there are thousands more we’ll never know. Leaders who dedicated themselves to a team, a cause, a company or a dream that didn’t work out in the end. They may have lost the battle, but they can still hold their head high. Despite the circumstances, no matter the frustration or failures, they stayed true to their calling. Giving themselves to the task and to the betterment of themselves and the people they serve. They never surrendered to the situation even when the best they could do wasn’t enough.

If we are too focused on the score, the promotion, the big win, we can lose sight of the real meaning of our work. We can see ourselves as failures if things don’t go our way. But there is only so much a leader can control. Our influence is limited. Our resources aren’t inexhaustible. We don’t always figure it out in time. We’re human.

To be a great leader is to step into the story and rise to the occasion. Making an impact where we can, working with the skills we have and determined to come out stronger.

Regardless of the outcome we can leave things better than we found them. We can help people grow through the experience, we can bring encouragement into difficult circumstances and we can create a foundation on which to build for the future. A future that may be very different from the one we imagined.

And even if we never make the cover of a best-selling book or become the subject of a popular blog post, we can know we made a difference. We were leaders who succeeded not in the eyes of the world but in the building of our character and our courage. Leaders who put our hand to the plow and did the work that needed to be done even if we didn’t reap the harvest.

Leading is a journey.

Sometimes a difficult journey.

Sometimes a lonely journey.

But always an adventure.

There is no promise of where it will take us, but we can trust that in accepting the experience and giving ourselves to the challenge we will know more of life, more of service and more of ourselves.

 

Believe in the value of your leadership.

Believe in the impact of your leadership.

Believe in the purpose of your leadership.

Believe in them.

Believe in you.

Win or lose.

 

5 comments

  1. Thank you Scott. Your blogs are always timely with something I’m dealing with and I find your message inspiring and affirming. Keep up the great work!

    Reply

    1. Thanks so much Karen. I really appreciate the encouragement. Sometimes the topic is a message I also need to hear – to remember. So much value is placed on success but that largely depends on how it’s measured. Our stories are unique. There can be great beauty and value in the stories that don’t end with a great success or win. In fact, that may be a more telling measure of leadership.

      Reply

  2. Scott, Thank you for this beautiful elegy to the true leader who does the right thing by her or his followers, whether in the public eye or in the ordinary moments. This should be required reading for every graduate, leader, and decisionmaker in this day and age. We must reset our society’s definition of success for our children, so that they understand–and practice–integrity and leadership as a way of life, not an end, or a means to an end. I look forward to reading more from you, and to sharing wisdom via @veronicasjung

    Reply

    1. Thank you so much for sharing these positive thoughts, Veronica. Love your note about the message to children and not viewing leadership as a means to an end. Great language to summarize the point of this post. I appreciate you stopping by and welcome your comments and feedback.

      Reply

      1. My pleasure, Scott. I am delighted to have discovered your blog and your spot on observations about false vs. true leadership. The latter is perhaps the biggest asset and gift to any organization/team.

        Reply

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