An Essential Component of Leadership: Distinguishing Possibility From Perfection

Have decided to promote another woman owned business this week at  The beauty of this company is all the products are made by women throughout the world.  Mary Schnack and I served on the Board of the National Association of Women Business Owners.  She’s a powerhouse and if you are still looking for holiday gifts you can find some wonderful things here while at the same time helping women around the world support their families.  Please note we get no benefit from this other than the joy of helping a friend. Sunday morning I happened to catch Mayor Bloomberg of New York City, on TV.  He was talking about leadership and characterized an effective leader as one who (and this is my paraphrase)….takes action based on possibility rather than perfection.  That thought has stayed with me for the last 24 hours as I think it is an excellent distinction to make.

I for one am a possibility thinker.  Anyone who knows me knows I don’t take no for an answer.  I usually ask why not, which is based on the possibility that there is another answer, or path to a solution.  I recognize for some this is irritating.  However for me it serves what I believe is the greater good.

Our country is in crisis.  Often people say something can’t be done because they are overworked, unengaged, bored, physically or mentally exhausted.  This crisis permeates every aspect of our society, and takes its toll on each of us differently.  In many workplaces fear of losing ones income has resulted in people playing it safe, trying not to rock the boat.  Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs eloquently describes what happens when peoples basic need for security is threatened.  Its no wonder people are cautions.  History demonstrates times of crisis birth the greatest innovations.

Taking action is essential.  How do individuals frozen with fear able to melt it so that they can take action?  Here are a few suggestions.   First you have to acknowledge the change in you.  You need to spend time being reflective.  Have you noticed that you have pulled into yourself more than usually?  Are you lethargic?  Do you find yourself saying I can’t, or it can’t be done, or we don’t do it that way here? Accept the change in you. This is what’s so.  Next think of how you would like to be.  How would you like to see yourself?  Imagine that.  Where would you be? See the surroundings, smell them, feel how it feels to be there.  Can you hear anything from where you are? What would you be saying? To whom?

Next take small action steps each day.  To start off you can take the action steps outside the workplace so that you build up some muscle.  I am a firm believer in the thought that to whom much is given mush is expected.  This belief goes far beyond money.  For me if you have greater understanding of something you have a responsibility to help others who might not have that same understanding.  Role modeling good behavior also falls into this category.

Over the weekend my mother, niece and I made Italian holiday sweets together.  This is a tradition we started 13 years ago on Dec.20, 1997 immediately upon my father’s death.  He loved Christmas and played Santa Claus for more than 40 years for family, friends and his beloved Lions Club of Bensonhurst who annually held a holiday party for children with special needs.  (Next week I’ll share a holiday story about that.)  But back to the present.  After we finished making the Strufoli, we realized we didn’t have the non-pareils we sprinkle on them.  My mother, 92 years young, had asked me to bring a plate to a cousin in the local nursing home, which I agreed to do.  But you can’t serve Strufoli without the non-pareils.  Its unacceptable.  It’s Sunday night and stores are closed but the bakery up the avenue was open.  I stopped.  My niece sad they don’t sell them.  I said maybe they will give us some.  Sure enough the young woman behind the counter said they don’t sell them. I then said since you won’t sell them will you give me a handful as I’m dropping off some sweets to the nursing home.  She was stunned at my request but went to the back and discussed it with her manager or co-workers.  She then came out with a bag of non-pareils and handed them to me.  I ceased the moment looked her straight in the eye and said,  “This is a wonderful.  It’s in keeping with the spirit of Christmas.  I hope someone does something nice for you this Christmas like you have done for me.”  This took all of 15 seconds but we held eye contact.  I share this not to pat myself on the back but rather as an illustration of a small action step.  I’d never before asked a storekeeper to give me something for nothing.

What possibilities will you engage this week?