“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance which no man could have dreamed would have come his way.”
– W. A. Murray, Scottish Himalayan Expedition, 1951
We find this quote from W.A. Murray to be rich and something worth spending time with. He’s not talking about prediction here or simply the idea of projecting what’s already known, (which is what we find happens in so many business planning sessions we’ve been involved in). He’s talking about going beyond the known and the safe the way Himalayan mountain climbers do. (Read “High Altitude Leadership: What The World’s Most Forbidding Peaks Teach Us About Success” by Chris Warner and Don Schmincke for much more on this.)
Murray is talking about a path that is not based on past experience and evidence. It’s a created path that has team members moved and inspired to innovative action and new solutions. It requires a new form of leadership that goes beyond the top-down, command-and-control model in which most of us grew up.
So our question to you is – are you committed to being a leader?
We need to be clear by what we mean when we say “leadership.” It is not seniority or power conferred by rank. We are talking about possessing the unique capacities of real leadership. The definition we like most comes from Warren Bennis, “Leadership is the wise use of power. Power is the ability to translate intention into reality and sustain it.”
So if we look juxtapose Murray’s quote on commitment and Bennis’ quote on leadership what jumps out immediately? Perhaps something like “gee, how do you do that?” After all, although Murray uses the word commitment, isn’t he really talking about an existential expression of surrender and courage? He’s not saying, “let’s all go exercise our left brained, rational thought processes, take on the impossible, and finish by lunch,” and neither is Bennis. What does it look like to translate intention into reality, let alone sustain it? How in the world does Providence fit into that equation?
This leadership mindset calls for real courage, or the ability to be with the unknown, while committing oneself and the team to outrageous goals and timelines. It takes what athletes call “being in the zone.” You must summon your mojo and be willing to be accountable for outcomes produced, (or failed to be produced), by others. The key word here is “commitment.” So we ask the question – are you really committed to being a leader, or are you a leader by default because of your title?