Most people do not evaluate their leadership day to day, they do so over periods of time: a semester, a fiscal quarter, a year, five years. We evaluate our leadership based on how well our plans are turning out: I planned to be married by twenty-eight and have one child, to be making $ 100000 a year and on the fast track to partner. I’m behind on those goals, so I obviously don’t have my act together. How can I lead anyone else, if I can’t reach my own goals?
Don’t get me wrong, it’s important to have plans. I’ve always loved the adage “Dreams don’t come true. Goals come true. A goal without a plan is just a dream.”
It’s important to have goals and plans to reach them. Just ensure you never lose sight of the fact that your most enduring legacy will very likely have nothing to do with your plans. The greatest impact you will have on the people around you and the organizations of which you are a part will plans. The greatest impact you will have on the people around you and the organizations of which you are a part will almost always be a result of the unplanned consequences of your everyday actions.
When we evaluate ourselves as people and leaders, however, the focus rarely falls on the ordinary days. Instead our attention turns to the “extraordinary” days in our lives: days when things happen that don’t usually happen.
Yes, there are extraordinary days in our lives, both positive and negative. Positive extraordinary days feature promotions, the achievement of major goals, and overcoming major obstacles. On Negative extraordinary days, we fail as an individual or as a team, are denied something we truly feel that we deserve, and hurt (or are hurt by) people about whom we truly care. We can learn a lot about ourselves and about our organizations on these extraordinary days. However, never forget that the extraordinary days in our lives are always outnumbered by the ordinary days when we live our lives and contribute to our work without tremendous fanfare.
The nature and frequency of our extraordinary days are determined by how we behave on our ordinary days. Long term success or failure is fostered in our ordinary days. Our true character, and that of our teams, is revealed by how we behave in our ordinary days.
Why then, when we evaluate our lives, do we focus on the relatively small percentage of “extraordinary days”? Part of the answer lies in the fact that most of us traveled through an education system in which we went to class for twelve weeks but our final grade was often determined by how we performed on three days: a couple of midterms and a final. The day-to- day work you put into attending class, studying, and writing assignments wasn’t what mattered: just three big, important days. It’s a perspective on life I don’t think wears off as we get older: what matters is how you step up on the big day-on the days when the spotlight shines and the “chips are on the table.” This perspective diminishes the importance of most days to most people, making it less likely that we feel a sense of urgency to seize each day as an opportunity for leadership.
This is an extract from Drew Dudley's This Is Day One published by Hachette Books