I love the scene in the movie City Slickers where Billy Crystal’s character, Mitch, is riding alone with Curly, played by Jack Palance. Curly gives Mitch some advice about life.
Curly: You know what the secret of life is?
Mitch: No. What?
Curly: [holds up one finger] This.
Mitch: Your finger?
Curly: One thing. Just one thing. You stick to that and everything else don’t mean s**t.
Mitch: That’s great, but what’s the one thing?
Curly: That’s what you gotta figure out.
I wish I had heeded that advice earlier in my career.
I spent years speaking at universities, particularly in business schools talking to students. Invariably, the standard business question that the students would ask me was, “What is the most important thing you do as a leader?” For 10 to 15 years, my answer to that question would change because I didn’t know my why — my purpose for being a leader. But beginning 5 years ago, I began to give the same answer every time.
Before I tell you my answer, I’d like you to think about it for a moment.
What is the single most important thing you do as a leader? Set policy? Listen? Develop others? Communicate? Your answer to that particular question is the most important you will need to know if you are going to be an effective leader. As you look upon your life and think about how busy things become, if you don’t have clarity about the single most important thing you do as a leader, it will hinder your effectiveness in the organization.
A Bearer of Hope
After giving this a lot of thought for myself, I came to the conclusion that the single most important thing I do as a leader is to be a bearer of hope. We live in a day and age of constant change. We have moved from a society with a sense of roots and stability and working for one organization to a chaotic world where employees have three, four, or five different careers. We live in a time of societal earthquakes and erosion. As a result, we have created a world of instability and uncertainty. And so, I decided that my why is to be a bearer of hope to inspire, equip, and encourage others.
Whatever decision you make about your why will be important in terms of the impact you have on your organization. Once you arrive at yours, help others discover their why. Together, you will create an organization led by a compass of true north — one that will remain stable in a world of chaos.
For breakfast, I had had egg whites, shredded wheat, toast, and coffee.
As an internationally recognized thought leader on transformative leadership, Dr. Tony Baron holds two doctorates in practical theology and psychology and coaches leaders worldwide. Dr. Baron is the author of six books, including The Art of Servant Leadership: Designing Your Organization for the Sake of Others (2010) which has been translated into Chinese and Portuguese. In addition to his position as Scholar-in-Residence for Center for Executive Excellence, Dr. Baron currently serves as the Director of Azusa Pacific Seminary and Associate Professor of Christian Leadership and Spiritual Formation at Azusa Pacific University.