A leader is one who imagines a better future and is accountable for delivering it. Vision comes first, a result of an unwillingness to accept things as they are now, and a desire to improve them. Accountability follows, ensuring you vigorously and relentlessly execute all the tasks and activities necessary to pull the future state you desire towards you.
We tend to think of leaders as our elected officials, the person we report to at work, the executive team in a company, or people that we follow, and whose insights we trust. While leaders and leadership are essential, your success is mostly a matter of your leadership, your ability to lead yourself. Personal leadership is a responsibility that, when absent, causes one to drift.
The Necessity of Vision
“The unexamined life isn’t worth living.” – Socrates
Don Juan: I, my friend, am as much a part of Nature as my one finger is part of me. If my finger is the organ by which I grasp the sword and the mandolin, my brain is the organ by which Nature strives to understand itself.”
The Devil: What is the use of knowing?
Don Juan: Why to be able to choose the line of greatest advantage instead of yielding to the direction of least resistance. Does a ship sail to its destination no better than a log drifts nowhither? The philosopher is Nature’s pilot. And there you have our difference: to be in Hell is to drift: to be in Heaven is to steer. – George Bernard Shaw
When things are not optimal, if they are not what you would want them to be, personal leadership is imagining what your better future state looks like, something you might describe as “deciding what you want.” Without defining what you want your life to look like, not only are you drifting, you are settling for something less than what you might have—and worse still, what you are capable of creating. You are yielding to the line of least resistance.
When you are young, you will occasionally bump into people who see something in you that you don’t see in yourself. They will expect more from you than you expect of yourself, pushing and stretching you to grow and become the person that comes after the person you are when they find you. As you grow older, it will be rare to find people who will offer you the gift of high expectations, accepting the standard you set for yourself, never attempting to help you see how much runway is still available to you.
Personal leadership means expecting more from yourself without needing anyone to raise your standards because you expect more from yourself than anyone would dare expect from you. In a crisis, you have the opportunity to reset, reimagine and reinvent yourself, deciding what it is you want and who you are going to need to become to bring the vision you can see in your mind’s eye into reality.
The Nature of Accountability
No one is going to hold you accountable for becoming the best version of yourself. It would be exceedingly rare to find someone willing to argue with you that you are settling when you should be striving. You fill this gap with personal leadership, holding yourself accountable for bringing your vision to life, doing all the things that are necessary, without being asked, and without fail.
Vision is nothing without execution. The key to implementation in the pursuit of your vision is priorities, recognizing and taking action on the very few things that will move you towards your vision, allowing other things to take a back seat to what’s most important. Accountability means avoiding a false sense of productivity, the kind you get from clearing your inbox or cleaning your desk or getting organized, none of which will move you closer to your goals or your better future state.
The decision to execute is binary. You are either working on your priorities, the tasks, projects, and initiatives that move your better future toward you, or you are not doing these things, pushing your vision away from you and lengthening the time it takes to achieve your goals.
Raising Your Standard
“The mass of men live lives of quiet desperation” – Thoreau.
Who am I to argue with ideas that have been accepted and quoted for ages? The mass of men don’t live lives of quiet desperation; they live with the acceptance of what comes to them without a vision and the massive action required to bring it to life. Were they desperate, they would act on their behalf. Instead, they settle.
There is never a time when doing this work is unavailable to you, but there are times when it makes sense to take stock of your life and decide what you want, what’s important, and how you want to spend the time given to you. Now is one of those times. Now is a time to reflect on where you are, where you are going, what you want, and what is going to be necessary for you to manifest it.
Raise your standards. Expect more from yourself. Decide on what areas you want—or need—things to be different. Make the necessary plans and start taking action now. Hold yourself accountable for your priorities and hold yourself to high standards.
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