“There are no new truths, but only truths that have not been recognized by those who have perceived them without noticing. A truth is something that everybody can be shown to know and to have known, as people say, all along.” — Mary McCarthy, author and critic
I write these words as I sit in the office/study of my “electronic cottage.” One of the reasons I love our home is because it straddles the past and the future. The front of our house looks out upon a typical suburban street with a mixture of split-levels, bungalows, and two story homes. The city bus roars by periodically in a cloud of diesel smoke.
Our house is wired for business (when the kids are excited it’s just wired). Our personal computer and printer in the kid’s basement room is networked with my notebook computer, printers, and our other main office computers on the third floor. Before our administrative office finally outgrew our house, we had six phone lines that enabled us to operate The CLEMMER Group through phone calls, faxes, e-mail, and Internet access. Some days, our administrative associates were squeezed in so tight that turning the other cheek wasn’t a virtue it was a necessity.
My office/study looks over my perennial garden in our backyard and across a river valley to the “Pioneer Tower” erected to mark the site of the first settlement in this area almost 200 years ago. Among these settlers were my own ancestors. They cleared the forests and broke the soil for the first farms that built this community. Horses still run in the hillside field that rises from the tower on the riverbank to the farmyard.
But the more things change, the more they really do stay the same. Those settlers were powerful leaders. The principles that both drove and guided their lives are as relevant today. They faced up to tough choices. They lived their values. They followed their dreams. They learned and adapted. They mobilized others to build a strong community. They persisted in the face of many heart-breaking disasters. They committed their lives to a greater cause.
The reasons for their successes and failures are the same ones that determine ours today. Today’s tools have changed and our society is organized differently. But the human habits and characteristics that determine our success with today’s tools and society haven’t changed. Our organizing systems, technologies, and the type of work we do change. But people are still people. The human elements guiding our behavior are consistent. Leadership principles are timeless. They apply to all of us; no matter what role we play in society or organizations.
Blazing Our Own Leadership Path
“The future is not some place we are going, but one we are creating. The paths to it are not found but made, and the activity of making them changes both the maker and the destination.” — John Schaar, American sociologist
In 1985 when I was writing my first book on leadership (The VIP Strategy), I discovered there were nearly 3,000 PhD theses on leadership in American university libraries – and probably as many books. Today, there’s likely 2 – 3 times that number. One of the reasons there are so many different leadership models, formulas, advice, etc. is because we’re talking about a way of being. With billions of people in this world, there are billions of ways of being. The leadership journey is about blazing our own pathway ever upward and outward toward who we are and the life of our dreams.
We find that many people who want “practical ideas” and concrete action steps to improve their leadership skills are really looking for someone to give them the answers. They want the magic solution or 12-step program. They are looking for a better way of doing things.
But leadership is a way of being that shows up in how we do things. There are no formulas or short cuts to being a better and better person. Leadership is a journey of personal discovery and learning. While we can pick up valuable travel tips from others who’ve been down their own personal pathways, it’s a never-ending effort of continuously searching for and blazing our own path.