Years ago I attended a Christian Leadership Alliance (CLA) conference and heard a keynote speaker who has changed my life in significant ways. The speaker’s name was Michael Hyatt, and at the time he was CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishing, one of the leading Christian book publishing houses in the nation.
I remember being inspired by his talk at CLA, but years later, I can’t tell you what it was about. However, I appreciated the insight enough that I began to follow Hyatt on Twitter, subscribed to his blog, and started listening to his podcasts.
Over the last few years I’ve gained so much insight from Hyatt and those he’s interviewed. One thing that stuck with me is something he shared in a podcast when he spoke about leadership. In that discussion he talked about failure. Hyatt told a story about how at Thomas Nelson, he led the organization during a time when they had major challenges. Committed to personal development, Hyatt hired a personal coach. They were talking one day about a major failure in the organization’s sales operation. When discussing the organization’s failure to grow, his coach asked, What is it about your leadership that allowed this to happen?
Hyatt argued with his coach that he wasn’t personally at fault here — it was his sales director who hadn’t achieved the established sales goals, and that’s why revenue was down. But each time he’d offer a qualified excuse like this, his coach would ask once more, Ok, so if that’s the case, what was it about your leadership that created the situation that let this happen?
Eventually, Hyatt got the point. He, as the leader, is accountable for his organization. For the successes, and the failures of his people. Therefore, when things go wrong, instead of looking for a scapegoat or someone to pin blame on, he needed to ask, What is it about my leadership that allowed this to happen?
This one question has stuck with me for years. Some days it challenges and inspires me. It drives me to be a better person. A better leader. A better husband and father. And other days, it haunts and confronts me. When something goes terribly wrong — when there’s a big failure — and I begin to look for someone to blame, that quiet voice in the back of my mind whispers, What was it about your leadership that allowed this to happen?
This question is clarifying, it’s challenging, and if you listen to it, it can focus you in the direction you need to go to actually solve a problem and get things back on track. It’s a question I ask myself daily, and I encourage you to make it a key question you ask yourself too.
Here’s the sharpening your saw…