Leadership

Stick to perseverance

Never underestimate the power of sticking to one path despite the obstacles. The ability to persevere is perhaps one of the most important traits of good leaders.

Leaders should take a tip from the postage stamp. You should approach all of your career goals as though you were a postage stamp. The reason is the usefulness of the stamp consists in its ability to stick to one thing until it gets to its destination.

I have coached and mentored many leaders over the years.  It seems that somewhere buried within my counsel was usually the message to persevere.  I strongly believe the true winners are the leaders that have learned to stick to their path regardless of the obstacles that are placed in their way.  It reminds me of the saying, "Nobody trips over mountains.  It is the small pebble that causes you to stumble.  Pass all the pebbles in your path and you will find you would have crossed the mountain."  Unfortunately I don't know the source of the saying.  However, I bet it is someone who had learned the power of perseverance.

One definition for perseverance is a "steady persistence in a course of action, a purpose, a state, etc., especially in spite of difficulties, obstacles, or discouragement."  As a strong leader, you should ensure that you and your people understand and practice this definition.  Wouldn't you be ecstatic if your people successfully completed ALL tasks that were assigned to them... without excuses?  Isn't it tremendously more productive to have a list of the actions that would eliminate obstructions, rather than a list of things that will prevent the successful completion of the goal?

I recently read an article that highlighted how one leader, who was faced with many challenges, used perseverance in order to prevail.  Here are some of his challenges:

  • He failed in business in '31.
  • He was defeated for State Legislator in '32.
  • He tried another business in '33... It also failed.
  • His fiancée died in '35.
  • He had a nervous breakdown in '36.
  • In '43 he ran for congress and was defeated.
  • He tried again in '48 and was defeated again.
  • He tried running for the Senate in '55. He lost.
  • The next year he ran for Vice President and lost.
  • In '59 he ran for the Senate again and was defeated.

After facing those challenges, in 1860, the man who signed is name A. Lincoln became the 16th President of the United States.  I think the most exciting fact is that he is not alone in mastering perseverance.  Here are a few others:

  • Beethoven the composer was deaf.
  • Ray Charles the musician was blind.
  • Thomas Edison the inventor had a learning problem.
  • Albert Einstein the scientist had a learning disability.
  • Terry Fox the runner was an amputee with cancer.
  • James Earl Jones the actor was a stutterer.
  • Helen Keller the author was deaf and blind.
  • President Franklin D. Roosevelt was paralyzed from polio.
  • Vincent Van Gogh the artist was mentally ill.
  • Itzhak Perlman the concert violinist was paralyzed from the waist down.
  • Stephen Hawking the physicist has Lou Gehrig's disease.

Now, think about a recent task that you and/or your people thought was insurmountable.  In comparison to the challenges faced by the above list of people, was it really that difficult to accomplish?  Were the obstacles really that severe?  Could an application of leadership perseverance, creativity and doggedness have overcome those impediments?

You can develop the following ten perseverance traits within yourself (as a leader) and your people:

  1. A tendency not to abandon tasks when faced with obstacles. Approach them with urgency, tenacity, doggedness.
  2. Follow-through with the tasks at hand. Show evidence of purposeful, continuous commitment to all activities instead of performing sporadic efforts in diverse areas. Those other areas may not be pertinent to completing your goal.
  3. Avoid distractions from ideas and new projects that are not consistent with the achievement of the tasks at hand. You can always address the new projects once you have completed the current ones.
  4. Approach all tasks and projects with interest. This will help you to avoid "bouncing" from task to task as a result of lack of interest.
  5. Visualize the successful completion of the task. This will help you to avoid seeing a minor setback as a major failure.
  6. Use tenacity, and determination to sustain the application of the talent and skill that you apply to the task. This will assist you in eliminating the tendency to question your own abilities in completing the task.
  7. Engage others to help. Additional strengths, ideas, talent and skills which others can provide will help to get the task completed. In addition, you may learn tricks and techniques that you did not know before.
  8. Believe in yourself. Believe that you can make things happen. Understand and believe in the words of the great cartoonist, Charles Schultz. He said, "Life is a ten-speed bike. Most of us have gears we never use." Think of all the additional talents that you can bring to the task.
  9. Develop a passion for every task. Passion is the first step to achievement. It increases will power; it produces energy; it is the key to success; and it is the foundation for excellence.
  10. Focus on the benefits of completing the task. This will tend to generate the interest, enthusiasm and a passion that will provide the energy to accomplish the task.

Perseverance is essential to our victory over everything.  Here is a quote from William James, "Compared with what we ought to be, we are only half awake. Our fires are damped, our drafts are checked. We are making use of only a small part of our possible mental and physical resources...people the world over possess amounts of resource, which only exceptional individuals push to their extremes of use."

Be an exceptional individual; be an exceptional leader... Be like the postal stamp.

10 comments
CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

"Steven Hawking had..." Shouldn't that be "Steven Hawking HAS...", or did I miss his death?

santeewelding
santeewelding

"...of the actions that would eliminate obstructions,..." is also the crux of scientific method -- frame the question in terms amenable to getting things done. Also, the crux of your positive and helpful article.

prosenjit11
prosenjit11

This is great inspiration and I am sure of tremendous value. Thank You Very Much

aureolin
aureolin

You need to stop, look around, and make sure that what you're persevering at is what you really should be doing. Take a quick measure of what's going on around you, get a level set from your peers, analyze your goals and direction and make sure what you're doing makes sense. No amount of perseverance will allow you to chop down trees with a herring. Steve G.

wayne
wayne

Thanks for finding the typos. I doesn't matter how much I (and others) read these before I post... Oh Well!... Thanks. -- Wayne.

JamesRL
JamesRL

Terry Fox, sadly no longer "is" either. He died in 1980. James

santeewelding
santeewelding

If ever there was a term not amenable to getting anything done, "had" in this case would be it.

JamesRL
JamesRL

One of my favorite shows is a show called Dragons den on CBC (think there may be/have been on from Britain). In it an entrepreneur pitches their product to a bunch of venture capitalists who have all made big money as entrepreneurs, and who are willing to invest in others, if the idea is right. Many people come on with great ideas, others are so convinced that they have something great, but if 5 smart cookies all tell you your idea is crap, odds are it is. James

jeffcerny
jeffcerny

Thanks for the insights Wayne. (Itzhak Perlman would also be disappointed that you refer to his perseverance in the face of incredible obstacles in the past tense.)

jeffcerny
jeffcerny

Itzhak Perlman would also be disappointed that you refer to him in the past tense.