When you look at the life of Napoleon or Alexander the Great, or Florence Nightingale or Mother Teresa, you'll find that they were incredibly active men and women all the time. They were not contemplative and waiting for things to happen. They were people who had an idea, a concept, and a mission and then launched.
Leaders are innovative and entrepreneurial. Entrepren eurial comes from a French word meaning “to undertake or to do.” Innovative means trying new things and getting on with them Leaders don't analyze things to death.
This is the motto of the business leader of today: Do it. Fix it. Try it. It comes from the Tom Peters book In Search of Excellence, where he says that top companies are those that make more tries, drill more holes, and get on with things. They don't hesitate and spend months and years on analysis; they get out and do something. As they say, “Don't just do something; move forward.”
How Action Saved $2 Million
Leaders are personally action-oriented. They are constantly moving their companies forward, but they are also themselves always active. Don't do something tomorrow that could be done today.
Procrastination is the opposite of action. Leaders don't procrastinate, otherwise they wouldn't be leaders. This is a lesson I learned early in my career. When I was working for a large company, my boss asked me to fly to Reno to begin development work on a $2 million property that the company was purchasing. He said I could go within the next couple of weeks. I wasn't a leader in the company at that time, but since I have never procrastinated, I decided to go the next morning. As soon as I arrived in Nevada and started meeting with people, including the engineer in charge of the development work on the property, I sensed that there was something wrong with the property. By the end of the day, just a few hours before the deal was supposed to close, I realized what was wrong: The property had no water source and was undevelopable. By moving to action immediately, I saved my company from spending $2 million on a worthless piece of land. Needless to say, my boss was happy — and within a year, I was running three divisions and had a staff of forty-two people.
Be Forward Thinking
Leaders are forward thinking. Most leaders live in the future. They are continually focusing their thoughts on the future — what will be and how to create it. Most nonleaders focus on the present and the past. To be forward thinking means establishing a set of goals and focusing every day on moving toward those goals.
Leaders follow these seven steps for achieving goals:
1. Identify your major goals. Decide exactly what you want to achieve, whether it's for your business or your life. Clarity is essential.
2. Write it down. Be specific and detailed. Make it measurable. As an example, your goal might be to
double your sales in the next two years. So, write it down. If your goal is not in writing, it's nothing more than a vague fantasy.
3. Set a deadline for the achievement of the goal. If it's a big goal, then break it down into pieces and set deadlines for each of those pieces. We are energized by time-specific goals. Give yourself deadlines.
4. Make a list of everything that you have to do to achieve each major goal. Be comprehensive. As you think of more things, add them to the list until it is complete.
5. Create an action plan. This is where you take the list and turn it into specific steps. There are two things to think about: priority and sequence. What items on the list are most important? What must be done first? When setting priorities, remember the 80/20 rule: 20 percent of the things you do will account for 80 percent of your results. You don't want to spend your time on unimportant things. You don't want your people spending time on unimportant things. Identify what's really going to help you and your organization to achieve your goals. As for sequence, you have to identify exactly what needs to be done before something else can be done. Any plan is going to have activities that are dependent on certain other activities being done. Also, identify the limitations, constraints, or obstacles that stand in your way. Priority is again important. What are the most important obstacles? What are the things you will absolutely need to overcome before you can achieve your goal?
6. Take action. Now that you have a plan, and you know the hurdles on the path before you, you must act — immediately. There can be no more delays. Many people fail because they don't take action on their goals and plans. Leaders don't make that mistake.
7. Do something every day. When you get up in the morning, plan your day and then do something, anything, that moves you toward achieving your goals.
Peter Drucker wrote, “The responsibility of the leader is to think about the future; no one else can.” Strategic planner Michael Kami says, “Those who do not think about the future cannot have one.” Author and management expert Alec Mackenzie says, “The best way to predict the future is to create it.” Leaders create the future by setting goals and moving forward, step-by-step, every day, toward those goals.