Going First

Photo by Erik Johansson

Leadership is a very big and often complex topic.  In very simple (possibly even simplistic) terms though, it’s about going first.  It’s also about having a clear sense of purpose and about engaging others in believing that the purpose is something worth pursuing; something that can be trusted; something that will make things better, not worse.

That’s the hard part.  Going first puts us under harsh scrutiny, creates (often vehement) opposition and sometimes gives rise to sabotage.  It also represents change and while we often talk about embracing it, for many of us, embracing change is sort of like, as children, having to give a distant and unfamiliar relative a hug.   You know you should, but you don’t really want to.

Going first asks a lot of us.

It asks us to be bold without being obnoxious  ~ willing to risk rejection, to bend rules, to make new ones, to explore uncharted waters but to resist the belief that only our own views count.

It asks us to be resilient without being stubborn ~ to learn to cope with stress, disappointment, criticism, to bounce back from adversity; but to maintain a level of vulnerability that allows us to express our emotions; show our humanity and accept the things we need to see about ourselves.

It asks us to be tolerant without being a pushover ~ to listen to, and learn from, opposing views but to challenge those that work against our purpose or values.

It asks us to be tough without being callous ~ to hold ourselves and others accountable for the decisions we make but to do so in a way that creates lessons rather than metes out punishment.

It is not an easy road but many choose it because they have a dream; because they see something and want something that the rest of us have yet to consider.  And, they want to help us get there.

So, if you are one of those people, the question is how do you blaze your trail and convince others that it is a road worth following?  Yes, I know.  It’s a very big question.  But, I have some ideas and also some very interesting places to point you to, so here goes:

Keep the Fundamentals of Being a Good Boss in Mind

There is a plethora of Leadership blogs out there.  Frankly, It is hard to determine which ones are going to do the trick for you.  But, here are a couple of places to start.  First, Wally Bock’s Three Star Leadership Blog is an excellent place to go for reference material and practical down to earth advice about how to be a good boss.  Similarly, Art Petty’s Blog, Management Excellence is equally thought provoking and informative.

The point is, there are a lot of fancy and complicated views about what it means to go first and bring others happily along with you.  Wally and Art will help you to get at what’s most important.

Be Clear about your Vision and Purpose

If you are even the least bit fuzzy about where you want to go, going first can turn into going alone.  This is where bringing clarity to your vision and purpose is critical.  To help you do that, I note that Jesse Lyn Stoner and Ken Blanchard have released a second edition of their book, Full Steam Ahead ~ Unleash the Power of Vision in Your Work and Your Life.  This book is written for those of us who enjoy a good story (and who doesn’t?).  It examines the notion of creating a vision, (which can have rather ethereal connotations) and brings it to life in a very real way.

Develop a Thick Skin

In order to be bold and to bounce back from the inevitable setbacks, going first often creates, we have to learn to take disappointment in stride and to hold ourselves in high enough esteem to weather undue or unfair criticism.

Anne Perschel of Germaine Consulting, recently wrote a blog post entitled,  Hold the Botox – Thicken Your Skin While its message is pointed at women, I think both women and men could learn something about developing resilience from Anne.

As well, I read another post from Jane Perdue in her blog Get Your Big On called, “When Pretty isn’t a Compliment ~ A story of Resilience This story illustrates how easy it is for the balloon of self-confidence to suffer from even the slightest pinprick if we are not vigilant.

And finally:

Learn to Coach …and Get a Coach

If you want to go first with purpose it is always a good idea to find someone you can trust to help you get there and hold you accountable for the things you want and the things you say you are going to do.  A coach can help you with that.  As well, if you want others to follow your lead, learning to be a good coach is a must, especially if you want them to follow you happily.

One of my favourite coaches is Mary Jo Asmus.  Mary Jo writes an excellent blog and one that is on my regular reading list.  One of her most recent posts is entitled, “When You Coach, This is What happens” You will not only get some insights about how to coach but perhaps also see the benefits of having a coach in your own life.

Of course there is much more to learn about going first.  In fact it is a never-ending pursuit.  Hopefully, this has provided something of a start to your own journey, one that will gather many followers.  And, there is a lot I have left out.

What would you add?


Filed under Change Management, Establishing Direction, Leadership, Leadership Development, Leadership Vision, Learning, motivating & Inspiring, Uncategorized

16 responses to “Going First

  1. Gwyn – You have outdone yourself. This post is golden, a keeper, and one I will send along to clients. You’ve captured the bothands paradoxes required to lead by going first.
    Kudos, and thanks for the mention as well.

    • Gwyn Teatro

      Thank you Anne. If this post serves a purpose for your clients then *its* purpose has also been served.

  2. Gwyn,

    Thanks. You have a canny knack of reminding me of what I am NOT doing. Hence, a deliberate and never-ending practice is required.



    • Gwyn Teatro

      Lise ~ and because I write it, doesn’t mean I *do* it either. But like you, I think striking the fine balance that allows us to do the right thing, in just the rights amounts and at the right time is something worth pursuing.
      And, just for the record, I rather think that while there may be things you are NOT doing, there are just as many things you ARE doing. One of those things is that you care. To me, going first always starts with that.

  3. Get Your Leadership BIG On!

    Gwyn –
    What a great (and clever) way to pull lots of excellent leadership advice into one easy-to-read and digest packet.

    • Gwyn Teatro

      Thank you, Jane. I think that having great insights, such as yours, to pass along adds strength to the post and value to its readers. It can’t get much better than that.

  4. Nicely done! Thanks for all the good advice and for the pointer to my blog.

  5. What a charming, edgy piece! You are right on target with your advice and upfront about showing the difficult challenges of leading. It’s so true that if we aren’t clear on our vision that when we go out front we can end up alone.

    The more visionary our energy, the more radical our thinking, the more revolutionary our change the more resistance and pinpricks we face. Leadership is hard — that’s how we know that it’s needed.

    • Gwyn Teatro

      Douglas ~ Thank you for those kind words and for reinforcing the truth that the need for leadership, and the demand on leaders, intensifies, the further into uncharted waters we go.

  6. Terry Thomas

    Hi Gwyn

    This is the perfect May message for me to read as I sip my coffee on this perfect Saturday morning. When I read your stories last fall, it was a school assignment I really enjoyed. This spring I’ve been going through tough times at work, moments captured in your post. The more stressful things became at work, the more holes I dug in the ground for planting.

    Since you asked, the only thing I would add for effective leadership, is how the leader needs to nourish his/her own spirit. As our soles take us on our daily journeys, our soul needs TLC as we make the life journey!

    I’ve learned important lessons at the garden center. They have a plaque that says, “Those who throw mud, lose ground”. The “best” leader would be the one to climb up on this mud mound and take the high road. I’ve also discovered that the best manure provides fertile ground for new growth!

    I also found a garden blog I enjoy, Zoomin Blooms: A daylily blog. Her poem and picture posted Friday, May 6, 2011, tie in with your wise words!

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