Know Thy Why

“The greatest danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short, but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark.” –Michelangelo

Without going into the life history of Michelangelo, the diversely gifted personality that won the unequivocal right to live in our memory until eternity, let us try to learn a few rather important lessons from his wisdom. The above quote from this genius prompts us to set our eyes on targets beyond our imagination. Why would he do that? I see a very honest and justifiable logic behind such an invocation.

Attaining success in the mundane is no big achievement. Going beyond the norm invites attention and beating all records creates new challenges for others to work harder and aim higher. The onus is upon us to be the precursors of immense growth. Taking small steps at a time will bring us to the reward, no doubt, but it might take an entire lifetime. Instead, giant leaps will not only take less time but also bring us greater glory at the same time.

More often than not, we see people around us making merry for trivial achievements as if they had won a war. To rejoice is no sin but the quantum of glory needs be associated with the value of achievement, right? Why would you spend a thousand dollars celebrating a lottery-win of only $100.00? It does not make sense. Exact same way, we must remember that the level of success is directly proportionate to sacrifice involved. Until and unless we ran a game of high stakes, took an extraordinary risk and set ourselves some truly lofty goals, the victory shall not mean much to anyone.

Setting easier targets may be a training regime for the uninitiated but seasoned pros are familiar with the demands of a challenging situation and choose his/her battles wisely. If your goal is to win some laurels, gain much recognition and/or acquire a position of higher authority, it is much more important to develop a habit of always aiming higher, beyond the norm. Achieving success in tasks that bring awe to others is what brings laurels and not in completing everyday assignments that everyone is obliged to accomplish in normal course anyways.

Let us take into account the following English Proverb: “Try your skill in gilt first, then in gold.” When faced with a situation where chances of success are less than favorable, we should do a trial run before committing all our resources to the cause. Such an act of caution shall help us understand the challenges little better and chart a proper course of action for success.

More often than not, we set targets per our perceived ability. Even while assigning tasks to our subordinates, we commit the mistake of prejudging individual team members. We fail to give credit to their individual sense of creativity. Rather than letting each person find his/her own way out of a puzzle, we design the puzzle to suit each individual’s capability. Such an undesirable executive action puts limits on their imagination and resulting productivity. Why do we do that? Why not let everyone use his/her own vision and coax him/her to do the best possible and come out a winner?

“We are limited, not by our abilities, but by our vision.” – Unknown

If you want to be a true leader, become a virtuous leader or remain a follower. There is an Arabic proverb to the effect: “The virtue of deeds lies in completing them.” A true leader helps his/her followers tackle challenges in a proactive fashion, with resources at hand and within given time-frame. They do not set lofty goals without sufficient knowledge of their team’s capabilities and weaknesses. Their strength lies in turning those same weaknesses into productivity tools for the benefit of everyone involved. Their individual glory lies in bringing each task to completion in the desired manner.

A true leader knows the value of failure in the life of his/her disciple. Even then, his/her quest to keep challenging them to yet bigger, harder assignments helps bring out the best from within. The leader acts as a motivational force, a guide who has been there and done that and a guardian in need, provides all necessary impetus to the follower to break all self-imposed barriers and chart new territories.

Helping others see beyond their immediate field of vision and to empower them with necessary tools to achieve what they can perceive is one of the most important traits of leadership. Going beyond the norm and breaking out of their shell, followers find value in leadership that helps them excel beyond their own belief. Until and unless we too could lay claim to such an outstanding character as the basic trait of our own personality, we shall desist from projecting ourselves as leaders.

Let us challenge ourselves and find the answer to the most important qualifying mark of leadership.

  • Can I provide consistent value to the followers that trust my wisdom?

  • Am I creative enough to overcome situations where most others fail?

  • Do I command requisite patience to motivate others to succeed?

  • Am I strong-willed enough to tackle challenges on my own?

  • Do I sincerely lead by example and not by orders or force?

  • Do I consistently set lofty goals and achievable targets?

  • Do I allow assimilation without prejudging anyone?

  • Am I a true ‘Servant-Leader’ & not self-centered?

  • Do my followers see measurable gains?

  • Do I truly care for my followers?

The above traits are definitely not the culmination of leadership. There is many a different thesis written on this subject. Many experts, with tremendous knowledge, experience and research to their credit, have propounded their individual theories on what makes a great leader. However, the above self-analysis, when done with 100% honesty, can help anyone overcome situations where his/her reputation as a leader could be at stake.

Overcoming the above-mentioned weaknesses can definitely help us move further on the path to a productive, sustainable leadership role. Our experiences, skills, guidance, and motivation would then bring many lasting benefits to others.


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