What do you really care about? I’m not talking about your new car, your latest mobile phone, or your next pay rise. While those sorts of things are important at some level – and we can all get upset if they are damaged, lost, or never seen – we can probably survive without them. What I’m referring to are those things that really matter to us. The things that, like a constant background hum, guide our actions throughout life. Those things are non-negotiable. Those for which we will willingly hold our ground – defend against the odds – even when that requires personal sacrifice.
For many of us, one aspect of our lives that we care deeply about is family. Another is our closest friends. Chances are, if we feel that those close to us are threatened or sick, or in some other way need our help, we will do everything possible to step up to the mark and support them. For example, last year I received a call from my wife saying she’d been involved in a car accident. I dropped everything I was doing and immediately went to help. Nothing would have stopped me. Of course, this had consequences: work didn’t get done and conference calls were missed. But later, when I explained the reasons to those I’d let down, there was complete understanding. Everybody got it, without my needing to apologize further. Such is the near-universal acceptance that family really matters.
What’s interesting is the power and momentum released inside of us when we’re faced with something we care deeply about. We become energized to overcome any obstacle in our way, even when we’re not sure of what to do. This is perhaps particularly so for parents, whether they’re protecting their children from physical harm or giving them every possible opportunity to thrive. We only have to see the often distressing images of parents clutching their young children tightly as they flee war zones to recognize how powerful this drive can be.
While the importance of family and close friends is perhaps a given, it can take us a while to begin to understand what else calls to us as individuals and just how important those things are. It can take even longer to fully, consciously process, and accept these thoughts, to turn an understanding of what matters most into a concrete foundation for life. Some people start to realize this process in their early teens. For others, it might not be until their later years, prompted perhaps by a life-changing event, that what’s most important becomes completely clear. The point is, the sooner we can identify what really, truly matters most to us, the sooner we can tap into the energy and drive those things to provide.
This reserve of energy is important for anyone who chooses to lead. Whenever we are leading, we are able to create and steer things in ways that wouldn’t otherwise have happened. Leadership is therefore often about bringing new things into existence – things that wouldn’t have occurred if we weren’t in that role.
By its very nature, leadership is difficult. We live in a complex world in which our actions often have unpredictable outcomes. This is particularly so when we interact with other human beings. Unlike lines of computer code, where one instruction logically follows another, human behavior delivers infinitely different, unexpected consequences.
As leaders, we will face new and challenging situations in which we will often have no reliable or consistent way of knowing where to start or which route to take. To make headway as a leader, it’s therefore vital first to find an anchor in those things that are most important to us. An anchor in our foundation, built of the things we hold as truly important in life. Whenever we are met with the most difficult leadership situations, those things will then act as the source of energy we can draw from to overcome the challenges we face. Once we know deep down what is really important to us, it will also help guide the choices we make and how we lead ourselves. And the better we lead ourselves, the better equipped we become to lead others.
Peter Docker is passionate about enabling people to unlock their natural talents and teaches leadership that is focused on commitment and human connection. This approach harnesses the collective wisdom of teams to generate extraordinary outcomes. Peter’s commercial and industry experience has been at the most senior levels in sectors across more than 90 countries, including oil & gas, construction, mining, pharmaceuticals, banking, television, film, media, manufacturing and services. Having served for 25 years as a Royal Air Force senior officer, Peter has been a Force Commander during combat flying operations and has seen service across the globe. Peter’s latest book, Leading from The Jumpseat: How to Create Extraordinary Opportunities by Handing Over Control, was published by Why Not Press.