Thursday, November 17, 2011

Lead from the In-Between

Photo by Vincepal

Do you ever feel caught halfway between today and tomorrow?

You're not alone...but if you're leading it's a good place to be.

You maintain a constant vision of a better future. At the same time, you face a reality today which is not yet what you hope it will be.

This tension defeats many aspiring leaders. Some spend so much time dreaming about tomorrow that they do not give today the attention it needs. Others become so lost in today's challenges that they lose sight of their vision. In either case, the leader who stays too long in today or tomorrow will not remain a leader for long.

Effective leaders learn to manage the tension between today and tomorrow, to lead from the in-between.

Some practical tips to help manage this tension:
  • Write down your vision or dreams for tomorrow.
  • Set appointments with yourself to revisit your vision. Often you'll be surprised at the progress you've made and be inspired to continue. Other times you'll realize you want to make some course-corrections.
  • Be very honest with yourself (and with your team) about where you are today. What are your team's strengths? What skills or resources do you need to acquire in order to accomplish the vision?
  • Plan backwards. Start at the end - at the accomplished vision - and work backwards. If your vision is to double your impact in three years...where do you need to be in 2 1 6 1 month.
  • Plan for today. Provide the most detail for your 1 month plan. These are the things you can practically do today to work toward your vision.
  • Take time to reflect on your progress. Celebrate the small milestones - it reminds you and your team of the progress you've made and helps motivate for the next steps.
  • Find company. Spend time with other leaders who experience the same tension (not to encourage one another!)
  • Give yourself space to reflect and permission to change your mind. It is okay to learn and refine your opinions over time.
This tension between today and tomorrow is the very essence of leadership.

Learning to lead from the in-between takes work, faith in the future, and belief in people.

...And I believe in you!

Take care,

David M. Dye

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Twitter: @davidmdye
David shares twenty years experience teaching, coaching, leading, and managing in youth service, education advocacy, city governance, and faith-based nonprofits. He currently serves as Chief Operating Officer for Colorado UpLift and enjoys helping others discover and realize their own potential.

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