Whether you are a Chief Executive Officer, Executive Director or interim CEO, you are responsible for the whole of the organization. Nobody else shares the responsibility for the complexity of the whole at the level you do, Even if you are fortunate enough to have a team member who demonstrates potential to perceive the complexity of the whole, they are not responsible for it. Their job does not depend on it. Organizational performance does not ultimately point to them with the intensity that it points to you.
You cannot afford to be distracted.
You must not let circumstances dim your perception or your access to resources.
You should not give yourself to minutiae.
Your life needs to be simple enough, unobstructed enough, clear enough to keep your focus.
Paring down to this level of focus may well be the most complicated task you will face. It means saying no to family, friends and so many good opportunities in order to stay focused on the essentials. It means interests you might pursue, and hobbies you might indulge are not pursued or indulged, in order to go more deeply and more expertly into the focused life demanded of you. Such is the call of executive leadership.
Coupled with this is the need for margin in your life. Adequate time for rest, reflection and the pursuit of a hobby or interests that enrich your life and add to the focus are a must. Are you getting a feel for how unrelenting and disciplined one's focus needs to be?
I write this blog post as the CEO for Design Group International and as one leading peer-based consulting teams of CEOs. As our company has grown and the responsibilities become weightier, the discipline of pruning back to remain focused and ultimately bear more fruit becomes ever more important. If I did not do this my focus would be only on what is expedient, only on what protected me, and only on trying to maintain my span of control. Long-term development of people and processes would give way to the short-term of reducing my never ending to-do list and getting stuff out the door.
I also write this as the spouse of a long-time cancer survivor. This week she enters a new round of treatment for her 19th cancer occurrence in 15 years. Somehow, long ago, we benefitted from learning to be disciplined about simplifying so that there was enough margin in our lives to absorb whatever might come in this health battle, while maintaining fruitful and meaningful lives. We have learned to give up, set down, hand off and unstructure, not because we are forced to, but in anticipation of needing to be free enough to say yes to what we must and to what truly matters.
The formula has been to:
1. Limit myself to one area of volunteering so that I can be an effective and reliable volunteer.
2. Maintain a rhythm of work, learning, play, rest and worship of God so that all facets of my person are strengthened.
3. Hand off opportunity to colleagues, sometimes even before they (or I) think they are ready.
With that simple living formula long at work in our lives we have the capacity and the clarity to face life rather than be surprised and troubled by it.
Writing this column I am aware that this is as much a pledge of what I must continue to do far more than it is any offering of perspective to others.