Greatest of All Time
That's an accolade that doesn't suffer from humility, does it? How can one be humble and a GOAT? Is it even possible?
If you look back at the GOATs of life, there are a few who you could lay claim as both GOAT and humble: Think Mother Theresa, Jesus ,Chadwick Boseman, and Fred Rogers to name a few. The question is, how did they pull it off?
It seems it can only pulled off if we are willing to go through the full progression -- all the phases - of leadership.
As I started thinking about those phases, and an interesting analogy came to life:
Mountain Top Experiences
If you hadn't noticed, mountain top experiences never start on top of the mountain. It starts from a state of humility. There is a whole progression of phases that happen that makes those experiences the Great of All Time. If those phases are what create GOAT experiences, then maybe there are some parallel aspects to what makes GOAT leaders. Let me explain by pulling more of the analogy.
I often travel to Colorado and head into the mountains. When I do, I never know what to expect. The weather can change on a dime. For instance, in midday it can be sunny and warm. Then a few hours later a storm suddenly emerges over the mountain range accompanied by threatening thunder and cold penetrating rain that just might turn to snow.
Leadership is a lot like that. We never know what to expect. To be the GOAT, we need to be flexible. Ready for anything. We need to be humble and hungry.
Later in the day, the night sky in the Colorado Rockies is often clear. The stars are dazzling despite the crisp, cold mountain air. Then, within hours, the morning awakes with a mountain dew and a frost over the valley that quickly gets burned off by the sun -- a sun that started its ascent by illuminating the white caps of the 14K foot mountains that tower in the distance. The sky is deep blue, and there are often a few deer in the field grazing on the grass. It's amazing to experience all the phases that can happen In just 24 hours.
This 24 hour experience in the mountains is similar to our leadership journey. We need to be prepared and aware of the different phases that we might encounter.
I've discovered that there are at least Four Phases in the Leadership Journey. Knowing these phases, and where you are, can make all the difference. Only once you navigate all four phases can you be in the position of experiencing the GOAT.
Phase 1 - Imagination - This is where it starts and where leaders need to come back to often. It's a state of humble reflection.
For me, when I am in this sate, I can began to cast a vision, rethink priorities and consider the opportunities . Specifically, I have to count my blessings, and explore what I can do to return the favor by adding value to others.
Again, this is a phase that leaders need to come back too often. From a position of meekness, we should never lose sight of our humble beginnings and then leverage the power of the imagination. Imagination is a preview of life's coming attractions -- good or bad. Think about it, we are either entertaining thoughts of doubt and filling gaps of what we don't know with discouraging thoughts and disillusionment of the fate that might happen, OR we are shinning light on what's good and what still could be. Meekness set in motion with Gratitude prepares us for Possibilities
Imagination either accelerates our doubt or activates our faith. We choose the path. Letting our imagination take us to the dark places results in a loss of hope and faith and it limits our impact. That's Victim thinking. You can't be humble or the GOAT when are thinking like a victim.
However, if we engage our Imagination with focus and hope it shapes those plans, refines our purpose, and prepares us to lead.
One more analogy that fits for this phase os recognizing the majestic beauty despite the challenging terrain. The mountains of Colorado, as beautiful as they are, are also dangerous. Likewise, our mind, if we focus on the things that are wrong, the terrain we need to climb, can be dangerous too. But there is beauty when we take hold of the resources that are there. It starts with with taking in the view that comes only if we are willing to make the climb. Never neglect the power of Imagination to position you for the climb. Imagination is often the fuel to our faith.
Phase 2 - Intentional Growth - Growth is intentional. To get to the top of a mountain, you need to get higher in elevation. You need to climb. Leadership is the same way. For me, once I was properly introduced to this phase, it hasn't stopped. I grew passionate about learning, applying, experiencing, sharing, and even serving.
Leaders need to be intentional learners. There's always another grander view if we continue the climb. The potential through learning is infinite.. In fact, if you are not learning you are not leading.
My favorite quote that set me on the right path, is from mentor John Maxwell. I remember being in the room when he said,- "When you are growth minded you never get bored." That changed my world. Where did that happen? With others who heard the call too and accepted the challenge. That created accountability for me.
Growth should never be done in a vacuum. It's like climbing a mountain. Never climb alone. Get near others who are growth-minded. It's the greatest accountability hack on the planet. It can save from being average.
Phase 3 - Perseverance - This is the hardest phase. It's the phase that many leaders are in right now. As leaders we will ALL encounter resistance once we hit the growth phase. We then have a choice. Quit, or keep going. The antidote to resistance is resilience -- it's to persevere.
The journey up a mountain requires perseverance. Your leadership does too. Let's face it, you can't lead without experiencing some struggle. It might be a lost proposal, a project that's gone off the rails, or a global pandemic. Leadership is tough. It's Hard! But this is why we lead. We need to be resolute for those around us. This is the phase that's will be the most rewarding..
I equate it to hiking that mountain. The hike is hard. It's grueling. There are times you just wan to turn back. There are other times you don't know the right path to take. But if you keep searching, and keep hiking, then there is a huge reward when you make that climb.
Yes, it's tempting to give up and want to quit. But hang in there! Don't be fooled. Doubt and disappointment are merely indicators that YOU are leading and not far off heading in the right direction.
Here's what I've learned. When one door closes, another door opens. Another path appears. The choice we can make when we are in this phase is to be courageous. It doesn't mean you don't have fear. In fact, if you are not feeling fear, you are not taking another risk. Courage isn't the absence of fear, it's the presence of faith. Courage is a decision. It is a strength you can choose. But as a leader, look for others who can help persevere with you, who will remind you why you are on this journey, why you should never give up. For me, my weekly accountability group helps me get alliance here. They remind me that every warrior needs to go through a battle, and every leader needs to go though a crisis. Hang in there!
Phase 4 - Awareness - There's something incredible that happens after phase 3. Yes, we might get a taste of something early on, but man, when you get past perseverance, then boom! There's a new awareness that takes place.
Think of this as the moment on that tough climb, you experience the grand view. Knowing about the view is not the same as experiencing view. This is an importat part of leadership too.
Awareness comes when make the tough climb. I feel like that's where I'm at right now-- at least most days. Sometimes I feel like I've slipped down the mountain a bit But other leaders who are with me on this journey help me get back up. I love staying connected with them. They offer a rope to help me out. And I can do the same to help them. This is the phase that makes leadership all worth it. The key is to never climb alone. (I did that once, for real, and almost lost my life -- but I'll save that for another story).
Go back to the mountain picture again. Those stars at night, that valley in the morning, that view on top of the mountain is always there. We just need to put ourselves in a position to be there and experience it for ourselves.
The greatest technique to experience the awareness phase is gratitude. There's always something to be thankful about. Take in that view. Make a list. Don't let disappointment, doubt, and frustration take you down the rabbit hole to victim thinking. Count your blessings. Seize the victories along the way and share them with others. Sharing them is one way to pour courage into others.
What's the point in all of this?
Leaders never lead alone. They need proximity to other leaders for all phases. No part of the journey should be done in solo. That's why I'm thankful for the teammates and mentors I've connected with along the way. Thankful for their support -- and that I can support them.
If you want to go from sheep to GOAT - get near others. Take a moment to inventory your inner circle. Do you have one? How have they helped you? Are they a team that cares for each other, builds each other up -- no matter what the phase, no matter wha the challenge? Next, what can you do to strengthen that team? It starts with you. It starts by sharing a need, and by offering your hand to help them up.
Capacity and connection means everything. It's how you scale mountains.
One last note. The mountain goat picture that you see. I love that pic. If you are lucky, you'll see one or two in Colorado. I like this pic because its mountain goat leading her family to the top of the peak. Mountain goats endure all the seasons. They endure all the phases. Yet, they live for Phase 4. It's why they are the GOAT. We should do the same!