Your manager is looking for you to complete the project before next Friday. Your team is behind. You know you have a choice. You can either choose to take the hit now or next Friday. You think through the alternatives. On the one hand, there are compromises you could make to deliver something workable even though you are certain that you can’t complete the entire task on time. On the other hand, if you make a move to reset expectations again or ask for additional resources your manager may start looking for someone else to drive the job to completion.
As you consider the choice before you it is clear that there are no good options. You wish you could go back to the project estimation phase and take a different approach to enlisting support for doing this project in the first place. The fact was, although the project is projected to provide a significant increase to the bottom line for your company, the executive sponsor was only lukewarm on giving you the budget and the people to complete it. And so, when she challenged you on your business case cost-benefit analysis and told you that you should be able to accomplish the same outcome for half the cost you had tabulated, it seemed she would only fund the project if you told her what she wanted to hear. Had you chosen to hold your ground you wouldn’t be in such a tight spot now, but more than likely you wouldn’t have even started this project in the first place. And after the first project extension and costs starting to run over the lowered estimates, you are starting to wonder if that would have been a better outcome for your career anyway.
Although you now can appreciate the importance of successfully pitching an executive sponsor and really enlisting their full support before proceeding with a risky project, that is clearly no longer an option. So, given the choices that you have, what are you going to do?
This may not be your life exactly. Maybe you are a student or a line worker, an individual contributor or an executive, a professional or an entertainer. Whatever line of work you are in and whatever role you find yourself fulfilling today, you can probably think of a time when you faced a decision with no apparent upside.
The fact is, life is full of decisions. Not just choices between excellent and superior but also between bad and worse, mediocre and sub-par, fair and good, flawed and complete, failure and compromise, and maybe most importantly between what is good for your company, family, team, or group and what is good for you.
So, here is the secret that leaders have learned – you don’t want to give up the non-optimal decisions or have someone else take them over for you.
You want the decision.
Invest, commit, get in front of, and own the situations that you find yourself in. Not every project is going to be a success. Not every situation is going to turn out well. Not every choice is going to be the right one or turn out in your favor. But leaders know that they want the ball in their court. They want to be the one people look to regardless of the situation, circumstance, or outcome.
Leaders want the choice.
So, regardless of the challenge, complexity, or confusion of the moment, being willing to be in that moment and making and owning the choices that are going to provide for and invest in the success of the company, the people around you, and you is one of the core behaviors that springs from the character and the focus of every great leader.
You have to choose to be where you are in life. You have to choose to own the situation you find yourself in. You have to decide that this is your moment, this is your choice, and you are going to pursue the best outcome you can see. You have to make it yours if you want to make a difference, see a change, and improve the reality of where you find yourself today.
Wishing you were somewhere else, hoping for someone else to step in and provide the solution, and refusing to make a decision until you have removed all risk from the outcome are all classic mistakes that push you out of a position of leadership and into the life of a victim.
Maybe you are in a situation where this is the last project you will work on at this job. Maybe you are facing a hard transition or a health report that doesn’t look good. Maybe you are up against a challenge that is beyond your skill set or out of your control. Maybe you won’t succeed. But, wouldn’t you rather make a difference, improve the situation, invest in the people around you, and leave it better than you found it?
If you are going to go down, wouldn’t you rather go down with your flags flying, taking the fight to the enemy, and supporting the best results that you can envision?
You cannot be defeated if you refuse to be controlled by your circumstances. If you refuse to be a victim and instead boldly stand in the breach, take the hit, own the outcome, pursue the vision, invest in the relationships that matter, and get in front of the results – then regardless of setbacks and failures you will not be defeated.
No matter where you are or what you do for a living, God is calling you to be a leader – a person of integrity who is choosing to be where you are and make a difference, a person of strength who is choosing to make the world a better place because you are here, a person of faith who is making the best use of the resources and time allotted to you to build relationships that will last, connections that will succeed, and meaning, purpose, and direction not just for yourself, but for every person within your reach and influence.
So, the next time you find yourself facing one of those tough decisions, where the options aren’t clear or promising – choose to deal with the downside, choose to be the leader that God is calling you to be.
Don’t settle. Don’t retreat.
Step into it. Get in front of it.
Find something you want to change and own it.
Invest in the people around you.
Take that next step in the direction of the best possible outcome you can find.
You may succeed. You may fail. But you will not be defeated.
When you choose to lead in the direction God is showing you – the world will be a better place because you were there.