Are You Overwhelmed By Circumstances?

overwhelm computer guy“He has come to realize that the tyranny of the urgent is a false calling for one’s life.” -Paul Heagen, Vistage Executive Street Blog Post, 8/25/11, commenting on lessons learned from Steve Jobs Ever increasing volumes of information, (accurate, conflicting, and false), the constant barrage of shrill rhetoric, and the absence of visibility of where things are headed are the order of the day. Recently, a small group of my Vistage members discussed the subject and not surprisingly, words like doubt, fear, and fatigue popped out quickly as the participants shared.

Some preferred to spend more time on sorting out what might be reliable data, some suggested paying closer attention to one’s spiritual traditions and connection, and several pointed to their Vistage Group membership as a place to connect and find sanity. All these approaches met with consensus.

Discerning effective thoughts, feelings, and actions from the intense noise in the media and their day-to-day interactions with others seemed to be an important common thread. What has happened to our sense of visibility on where and how to lead? Did we ever really have real visibility or was it an illusion?

What if there never was any certainty – just the shared belief over the last decade that somehow we could predict where markets were headed, how competitors would behave, or how banks and creditors might respond?  I’m not naively suggesting things aren’t tough.  I’m wondering if the change is within us, a collective shift in our mindset, rather than “out there” solely in the circumstances?

During the Great Depression Napoleon Hill wrote “Think and Grow Rich” as a response to the collective conversation for malaise and failure that he was observing around him.  I’d call today’s public conversation “Speak and Grow Poor…”

Great leadership, as Paul Heagen points out in referencing Steve Jobs’ well-known Stanford speech, is only clear looking backwards. “Better to trust your guts, even your sense of destiny, your ability to change the world around you.”

Circumstances are always with us and ever more intrusive due to our wired world and the pressure to respond to “the tyranny of the urgent.” Correlating behavior with circumstances produces the opposite of Steve Jobs’ leadership.  It produces reaction, exhaustion, and basically, a soap opera.

Commitment to a shared vision is the energizer that will get you and your team charged up, in action, and finding ways to succeed, regardless of circumstances. Fatigue comes from resisting committing rather than from commitment. Commitment spawns a sense of freedom and clarity.

Shared vision and commitment will not be found in doing a better job dealing with your circumstances.Courage, the courage to be with the unknown, to “develop a friendship with the unknown,” as the poet David Whyte points out, is the missing link that will move you from reacting to your circumstances to great leadership.