While the debate continues about whether leaders are born or made, the truth is that great leaders evolve one pivotal decision at a time. We all confront pivot points in our work lives, but great leaders turn these pivotal decisions into catalysts for growth rather than career stoppers.
Here are examples of how great leaders in a variety of industries evolved as a result of five key leadership decisions they made along the way:
They did not do it alone; they took full accountability for making a decision work. They did not point to people, issues, or circumstances. In holding themselves accountable, they quickly learned they had to make the tough decisions. That included holding others accountable for their work and letting people go if they could not fulfill their role in–and responsibilities to–their work community. Personal accountability meant no excuses.
Each confronted himself or herself to answer the questions: “Will I? Can I? Should I?” They understood that the decision boiled down to its essence was being true to themselves. The new path would bring more work, risk, and trade-offs. They explored and discussed their options with people whose opinions mattered.
In their decisive moment, however, they knew they were making a solitary decision that would test their wings. No one could talk them into or out of it. It was their decision to make and theirs alone. It was their responsibility to enroll the support of their family and secure resources.
The decisive moment transformed their way of thinking. They transcended logic and linear thinking, making a pivotal decision that–even with rigorous analysis–came down to a personal judgment call. Once that inner voice prevailed, their way of thinking became increasingly its own ecosystem.
In that solitary decision, they had to trust and rely on their own acumen and judgment. The more progress they made, the more they trusted their own judgment. As they asserted themselves more as leaders, the more other people turned to them for good judgment and leadership.
They expanded their belief in the power of one person, and increasingly believed in the magic that many people working together could create.
But they knew they needed help. They had to make others believe in the direction they set. They used their vision as its own currency; something of real value that couldn’t be fully monetized. They had to shape the workplace values and culture.
The decisive moment propelled them to make something out of the ordinary happen. The more they did, the more they wanted to do. Work became their passion. They entered a different zone of determination and energy beyond what they had known, which was considerable. Running through all their narratives is a genuine love for their work. Usually they speak of their passion for the field they are in, but it is also a passion for leading.
How great leaders handle pivotal decisions shows us what separates leaders from managers. Their stories show that incredible achievements and personal growth come out of a decision to change the narrative from the expected course of events.
—Julia Tang Peters is the author of Pivot Points: Five Decisions Every Successful Leader Must Make.
Adapted with permission of the publisher, Wiley, from Pivot Points: Five Decisions Every Successful Leader Must Make. Copyright (c) 2014 by Julia Tang Peters. All rights reserved.