I’ve said it before. Leadership is a tough gig. And it doesn’t help when you are bombarded with messages telling you that the path to big wins in leadership come from big, bold risk-taking. Sure, leaders achieve when they think big. But those huge achievements are few and far between.
The truth is, leadership is the sum of all you do and who you are on a daily basis – not just when the Big Idea hits pay dirt. As I pointed out in a post called, A Character-Based Leader Leaves a Powerful Legacy on the Lead Change blog, there’s a lot of mythology about what makes a “great leader.”
What do we see in the media, hear from motivational speakers and perhaps even our own mentors? Huge, grand gestures are held up as shining examples of leaders who ‘broke the mold,’ ‘thought outside the box,’ and ‘wrote the next chapter on innovation.’
Much of the mythology stems from the media lionizing a certain type of business leader persona, huge on personality and bold rhetoric. It can indeed be demoralizing for the everyday leader in the trenches. The truth is, while big, bold ideas and risks sometimes pay off, they often don’t. There is a “Go Big or Go Home” myth surrounding leadership risk taking and it’s largely that — a myth. Instead, research bears out that risk-taking — when well-considered — is indeed a true path to successful leadership. And that type of risk-taking is built on daily interactions with peers and team members, paying attention and asking a lot of really good questions, and displaying humility in appropriate doses.
So leaders, take heart: it’s the small daily actions that add up to big wins in leadership. You are making a positive difference, even if the scorecard doesn’t currently indicate a huge win.