I was planning on writing this post regardless of who won the presidential election, and this post is not intended to be political or defend a political position. If we look carefully at this year's election, there are some great lessons that we as individuals and leaders can apply in our our lives and in our own situations.
My personal reaction to the results from Tuesday night: Wow. My reaction to the entire election process over the past 12-18 months: Yuk. My attitude towards the future: Lets Go!
Here are 5 key takeaways that I believe apply to us as business leaders:
1. Never underestimate your competition. It's easy to be confident in our own vision, in our own capabilities, and to believe our own press. It's much harder to be realistic about the circumstances we face, or the level of effort required to be successful. It's also easy to dismiss our competition as ineffective or weak or of "not having a chance". Resist the urge to do so. Make sure you are doing an honest assessment of your competition and your own capabilities. Operate within those parameters and don't get over confident. Surround yourself with people who will tell you the truth—you won't regret it.
2. Don't believe everything you read. There wasn't a poll, social media pundit, or news station that predicted the outcome of this election. It's easy to blindly believe what people say about you (good and bad). Worse is when you start to believe your own press. It's also easy to get complacent with the status quo and assume that things are fine, even when they are not. Effective leaders are not being swayed by popular opinion, the public media, and social influencers. Stick to and be true to who you are and what your company stands for. And be humble—win or lose.
3. Tenacity trumps tradition. (No pun intended here.) Mr. Trump never wavered in his belief of his ability to win—against all odds I might add. To say he ran a non-traditional campaign would be an understatement. I'm not agreeing with or even commenting on his approach to victory - rather the lesson is in his tenacity. Don't be afraid to do something different. Be maniacally focused on where you are going but don't be afraid to take a different path to get there — the risk is often worth it.
4. Reconciliation is important. Leadership is not a popularity contest, and good leaders understand the importance of bridging divides to keep their organizations running effectively. People will never agree, and differences can be very healthy, but disagreement needs to be carefully managed to avoid disfunction, turnover, or acrimony. Both candidates were conciliatory in their respective victory and defeat and there is a good lesson in their behavior. Leaders need to rise above the fray, not hold things against people who disagree, and work to create a cohesive environment for their teams.
5. Keep your eye on the prize. Agree or disagree with Mr. Trump (or Ms. Clinton for that matter), he was always unwavering in his goal and the effort he put forth to achieve it. He didn't let significant roadblocks overly distract him. Running a business is very similar. There are always thousands of distractions (and lots of detractors) that can take you off your game. Great leaders are vigilant and always keep their eye on the vision, the mission, and the prize and don't let distractions prevent them from achieving success.
As is typical in U.S. presidential elections, about half the people in the country are happy, and about half are sad (or even despondent). As leaders, we must persevere. And, while we should not be overly influenced by outside circumstances, we need to understand them and adapt our strategies to enable our organizations and the people within them to thrive. Lets go!
As a lifelong Cub fan who was born and raised in Chicago, I'm struck by history that was set tonight. 108 years since their last World Series win is (literally) an eternity. The breaking of "the curse", the building of the team, the investment in leadership and players is inspiring.
Cubs Win! Cubs Win! Cubs Win!
Growing up, my father, a north-sider, rooted for the White Sox. Not because he didn't like the Cubs, but he was frustrated with the Wrigley family (who owned the Cubs back then) and their unwillingness to invest in the team so that they at least had a chance of winning. While other teams were recruiting great pitching, great defensive players and people who could hit the ball on to Waveland Avenue on a regular basis, the team leadership relished in the "lovable loser" brand. For decades (and decades and decades), they simply would not do what it took to change their future.
There is clearly some parallels for us as leaders, and for our organizations. Leaders must lead. Leaders must invest in the future of the "franchise". Leaders must invest in getting the right team together to have a chance at winning. Leaders must face and overcome what seem like impossible obstacles (and odds). When this happens, great things happen. If you listen to the players and coaches when asked, "Why did you finally break through? What was special about this team?", the answer was the same: "This team is special — we all have each others back and we never stopped believing". Inspiring indeed.
These characteristics are not just good for the leader — they are critical for the development, encouragement and performance of the team. It builds confidence, encourages them to be part of something bigger than themselves, and gives them a reason to belong. They're even better for customers (fans), Customers want to work with inspired organizations. Organizations that will do what it takes to succeed. Organizations that listen to its customers and have that "we'll do whatever it takes" attitude.
108 years is a long time for the Cubs to go from lovable losers to world champions. I'l leave you with the words of Winston Churchill: "Never, never, never ever give up".
Steve is a husband, father, and business exec. He loves anything outdoors, anything that is a hard challenge, and enjoys working with anyone who wants to continually improve. And golf. He loves golf. Steve is the founder and CEO of Executive Advisory Partners.