“Stress-less” leadership

 By David Zerfoss

Transformers are not just 3D-animated robots in recent popular movies that are filled with sinister villains and imaginative heroes. They are real-life people who decide to make a breakthrough difference in other people’s lives. Purpose and passion fuel these incredible people.

In today’s business environment, businesses of all sizes are often being over managed and under led. The conventional “change management” theory, which is still in vogue today, is mostly focused on cutting costs and is less focused on growth. Businesses manage their way into a predictable future that often lacks imagination and innovation. They take an extra measure of the past and push it into the present. They pass it off as strategy and at best they achieve incremental results.

Today, many leaders’ self-justification and payoff is that they are “busy being busy.” To them, the sound and fury of activity assures them of their importance. They look stressed, actually are stressed, and are stressful to be around. Simply summed up, their past informs their present. And above all, they want to be seen as “reasonable” people, so they do not dare to be so bold as to expect an impossible future.

Transformational leaders clearly understand the power of a strategic-thinking framework. They make distinctions about the past, present and future. For them, true power lies in the future where their purpose takes wings and possibilities abound. Dr. Miles Munroe, in his book, “The Spirit of Leadership,” sums it up wonderfully as follows: “Leadership is the capacity to influence others through inspiration motivated by passion, generated by a vision, produced by a conviction, ignited by a purpose.” You could certainly tell if this person walked into the room! It is easy to see why such people are successful. They attract others like a magnet.

True leaders provide purpose, meaning and direction for those around them. Their invented future informs the actions they take in the present. They are about “being” the future they envision. They confront head-on the obstacles to their goals. They do not accept reasons deeply entrenched in the past as hindrances to the purpose they are living out. They take no time to admire barriers. In fact, they are intentionally being “unreasonable” (not accepting reasons or excuses) in order to propel their business into the future.

How can you become one of these transformational leaders, one who creates breakthrough performance and guides others into an incredible future? Follow three simple steps in a strategic process that involves thinking, conversations and execution.

Thinking: The most important tool you have at your disposal is a blank sheet of paper. It is full of nothing and thus unencumbered with the past. True transformation is about a new way of “being” versus change which is anchored in the past. Before you put anything on the paper, your mind must venture into the future. Think about who you want to be, what you want to become, and what you want to achieve. Now, can you visualize it?

In the future, there is an unfettered opening for purpose, possibilities, invention and creation. Exceptional leaders understand the demand for a clearly defined North Star that aligns them and their team with their guiding purpose. Truly effective leaders embrace the fact that when there is hope for the future, there is power in the present, and they take action toward their goals.

Conversations: To become this future-thinking leader, what conversations do you need to have and with whom? One of the most powerful tools we have as leaders is the power of conversations. Think about this for a moment: Nothing happens without some form of conversation. As the leader, you are the CCO (Chief Communications Officer). You must enroll and align both internal and external stakeholders. This includes customers. All stakeholders want to know who you are and what you stand for. What powerful conversations need to take place in your business?

Execution: This is the demand in the present for action and accountability for results aligned with your defined future. As you look into the future and visualize this successful leader and company, what are they doing? And equally as important, what are they not doing? What actions are they taking which drive their success? What are they achieving? These are your markers — your milestones — you need to note on your paper. These will guide your future thinking, the conversations you need to have, and the outcomes you need to achieve.

So many books have been written about “strategic planning,” and many consulting firms have built large businesses around this single task. They attempt to establish their value through complexity and volume of activity. After all of that work and money, their plans often sit on a shelf and collect dust. Yet, the most effective and rewarding process is really quite simple.

Envision the leader and business you want to “be-come.” Then, ask yourself, “What’s missing?” Determine those you want and need to have around you to accomplish your desired future. Who might be creating roadblocks to this new future? And finally, choose to have less stress because you are no longer anchored in the past and held back by being “reason-able.”

When you are very clear in your own purpose as a leader and realize “stress is a choice,” life begins to take on new meaning. The road ahead becomes clear as it is filled with milestones that will guide you along the way. As you invent a new way of being, your purpose becomes your fuel and what “lights you up.”

Choose to be an exceptional leader and one who thinks, speaks, and acts from your desired future. Have powerful conversations, and gather around others who share your values and understand your vision. Take on a new way of “be-ing,” and transform into a leader who touches, moves, and inspires others to make the impossible — possible.

A powerful, less-stressful future is yours to invent!

 David Zerfoss is CEO of The Zerfoss Group (www.TheZerfossGroup.com). He is also an Executive in Residence for Queens University, McColl School of Business, as well as Chair of Vistage International. He is a national speaker and author of the new book, “Stress is a Choice – 10 Rules to Simplify Your Life,” which is available at www.SimpleTruths.com or 1-800-900-3427. Zerfoss can be contacted at David.Zerfoss@Vistage.com.


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