– Nicholas R. Ripplinger
In today’s ever-changing climate, the leader has to be flexible and capable of changing course at a moment’s notice. This applies equally to the CEO of a multi-billion dollar corporation, the young adult overseeing his or her first service project, and every leader at every level in between. But what tools do leaders possess to help them make these decisions? Education, mentoring, and training are some, but the biggest, and most influential resource a leader has, is his or her past experiences.
We have all had experiences throughout our lives that have helped shape us into the leaders that we are today. These experiences have created a repository of solutions, both good and bad, that could work (or not work) in a given situation. However, so many people fail to sit down and reflect on their daily experiences, process the events, analyze the lessons learned, and then add those experiences to their repository. The good thing is that all of these experiences are stored in the subconscious and can be retrieved with targeted situational and personal reflection.
Think back to a time in your childhood when one of your coaches or teachers broke up a conflict during practice or class. Have you ever used that same approach to defuse a conflict in your professional life? If not, was it because you knew that approach would have only escalated the situation and made things worse? Either way, even this simple conflict resolution event is in your repository of solutions to be used, or purposely not used, the next time you encounter conflict. This is just one example that each of us has encountered that demonstrates why it is vital to always pay attention to situations, even when they may seem like normal routine events. Good or bad, there is always a lesson to be learned that could benefit us in the future.
As leaders, we have all been on our own personal journey that has put us exactly where we are today. My journey just so happened to take me all around the world during peace and war as a U.S. soldier. I was incredibly blessed to hold multiple highly visible positions that exposed me to some of our highest-ranking generals, admirals, and cabinet secretaries. Each and every one of those interactions provided insights into how high performers think, act, and conduct business. Those interactions provided valuable inputs into my repository of possible solutions to use at a later date. I also had the privilege to serve under some less-experienced leaders who, from time to time, made less-than-desirable decisions. Those experiences were incredibly valuable to me simply because I was able to see first-hand the results of their poor decisions.
Seeing the results of any decision will stick with a leader who is constantly seeking to gain knowledge. Surprisingly, leaders tend to remember the results of bad decisions more so than the positive ones, because it is human nature to take great leadership for granted. This is why my personal repository has many more ways to not handle a situation than the exact way to solve a problem. To quote Thomas Edison, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” As leaders, we must continue to grow and find solutions, but we must be certain to always pay attention and retain what will not work, as well.
Nick Ripplinger is the #1 Best Selling author of Front Line Leadership – Applying Military Strategies to Everyday Business and the founder of Front Line Leadership LLC, a leadership training and development company. Nick had been recognized as a Veteran of Influence by the Ohio State Assembly and the Dayton Business Journal and has received several other military and civilian awards for his work. Nick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by visiting his website at www.flleadership.com
This article is reprinted from Vol. 3, No. 2, of Nonprofit Performance Magazine. Subscribe today.
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