On Becoming a July 4th Leader
In 1776, a “Resolution of Independence” was voted upon and approved by the Second Continental Congress. Two days later, Congress approved the Declaration of Independence and publicly stated that the thirteen fledgling American colonies were no longer subject to the rule of the British Empire and were to be regarded as independent—and sovereign—states. As you can imagine, this declaration came with some significant consequences, not the least of which was the enmity and frustration of King George III. Already at war with Great Britain for over a year by the time the Declaration was signed on July 4th, General George Washington had it read to his troops defending New York City. Upon hearing it read, they promptly tore down a statue of King George and melted it to make musket balls for use against General Howe’s British troops bearing down upon the city. Freedom and independence, as history has proven repeatedly, has a great price.
All major decisions come with consequently major consequences that must be identified and reconciled. As a leader, you have the responsibility for managing risk and determining which consequences are worth overcoming in order to reap the rewards of your decisions. Risk management, therefore, becomes a cornerstone of great leadership, in business as in war and politics.
Much has been written about bold leadership, informed intuition, and the importance of moving out on decisions rather than stagnating in the quagmire of deliberation. While this is true, decisive action doesn’t relieve leaders from their responsibility to make decisions with intentionality, and “chess-gaming” the second-and-third order effects of the consequences they can expect to encounter as a result of major, strategic decisions. Sir Isaac Newton coined a whole law about actions and reactions in 1687, and the same can be applied to your interactions. Very little is accomplished in a vacuum. How you communicate your leadership decisions to your allies, your challengers and your teammates has the power to turn the tide before the first shot is fired.
As a leader, you have the responsibility for managing risk and determining which consequences are worth overcoming in order to reap the rewards of your decisions. Risk management, therefore, becomes a cornerstone of great leadership, in business as in war and politics.
John E. Ferling, professor emeritus of history at the University of West Georgia, calculated that the odds of an American victory in the Revolutionary War were, at the outset, “almost a miracle.” After all, the colonies were loosely affiliated and generally disorganized against the goliath that was the British Empire who saw no equal upon the seas and boasted a massive standing army. In his book, “Revolutionary Summer,” Ford Foundation Professor of History Joseph Ellis shares that the secret sauce was the Declaration itself—the very act of focusing the energy of 200,000 patriots towards a collective, common idea of freedom quite possibly set the stage for an American victory that wouldn’t occur until 1783, after 8-years of fighting. Victory cost the American patriots more than 25,000 souls and almost $180M, but whom among us would say the reward was not worth the price? As we approach the Independence Day holiday, we do so with the knowledge that freedom—and the decisions that make it possible—require sacrifice and dedication to see it through.
How you communicate your leadership decisions to your allies, your challengers and your teammates has the power to turn the tide before the first shot is fired.
Your team benefits from your ability to communicate and manage risk for their collective interest. You honor this trust by honing your leadership skills through constant learning, open communication and informed decision-making. The very fact that you are reading articles in a leadership forum such as this is a testament to your intentional decision to honor this trust and improve your leadership for the benefit of your team. As we settle-in with our families and friends this Independence Day, I encourage you to use the comments below to share with all of us the single most important declaration you’ve made for your team so far, and your secret for overcoming the challenges that came with your decision. All of us can learn from one another—I look forward to learning from you! Join me in the comments below or on Twitter, hash-tag #July4thLeader
Freedom—and the decisions that make it possible—require sacrifice and dedication to see it through.
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