Set your course by the stars, not by the lights of every passing ship. – Omar N. Bradley
One of the dangers I have observed over my years in leadership is the leader who tends to stray off course. It’s an easy trap to fall victim to and I have been there myself a few times.
It tends to happen when we are not focused on our “one thing” and are chasing rabbits down trails where we have no business going. And because we are distracted and we didn’t say no when we should have, we drift off course. It’s usually never intentional, but we are adrift nonetheless and we need to correct our course.
Writing in his book, Simplify, author Bill Hybels poses an intriguing set of questions that started me thinking about this. He writes:
Are you in the right race? Or have you accidentally drifted into a race that is mostly in vain? Are your best efforts going toward a race that results in fleeting applause? Or do you strive for material gain, which rusts, rots, and depreciates? Or for passing pleasures that don’t amount to a hill of beans in the eternal scheme of things?
Those are some powerful and thought provoking questions. Staying on course requires intentionality on your part as a leader. What does being adrift look like as a leader? How do you know if you are adrift? Let’s explore five possibilities.
Your leadership is adrift when you try to run someone else’s race
When the race ceases to be your own you are adrift. This happens when you are not being true to yourself. Each of us has our own race and our own lane in which to run it. Quit trying to be the person in the lane next to you and be the person God created you to be. When you do this you will stop drifting.
Your leadership is adrift when you mistake all that glitters for your true north
As the quote above mentions, you must not set your course by the lights of the passing ships, but by the stars. Leaders who are adrift are frustrated because they didn’t keep their sights set on the star that is guiding them in their race. Forget about the other glimmering lights and get your focus back to where it belongs.
Your leadership is adrift when you fail to set proper boundaries
Leaders drift when they think they can be all things to all people and fail to set realistic, proper, and necessary boundaries. Without boundaries, there is no buffer in place to steer you back on course. You have to establish boundaries and stick by them. Otherwise, you will be drawn off course by every glittering light that comes along.
Your leadership is adrift when you chase applause and approval
This is one of the easiest traps to fall for as a leader. Afterall, who doesn’t enjoy the applause and approval that stokes our ego? But if this is your motivation for being a leader you are setting yourself up for disappointment and you will always be adrift. When you focus is on developing your character and integrity you will never have to worry about approval.
Your leadership is adrift when there is no accountability
Accountability is crucial to your success as a leader. It’s also what will keep you from drifting. When you have someone that has permission to speak truth into your life that person(s) can be an invaluable benefit to you as a leader. Do you have such a person? If not, let me encourage you to find one. The writer in Proverbs 22:15 said, “Refuse good advice and watch your plans fail; take good counsel and watch them succeed.” (The Message).
As a leader, there is nothing more frustrating than being adrift. The good news? You don’t have to be when you know the warning signs. Stop drifting and get your focus back on what matters most.
© 2017 Doug Dickerson