I like to watch out the window when I’m working out at the gym. This morning, there wasn’t too much to see. It was pouring rain, and everyone was rushing in and out of their cars. As I watched the rain come down, I noticed a little mallard duck behind a car. Obviously, this was the perfect day for him. He was making his way across the parking lot, back and forth, like he had a goal that he needed to accomplish.
I continued to watch him make his way across the street. He would slow down and look around for a few minutes. However, that wouldn’t last too long. He would quickly take off again, walking with purpose here and there. And then it dawned on me…
Where were all the other ducks?
Ducks are very social animals and like to stick in groups. I scanned the parking lot for other mallards but failed to find any other birds. I continued to watch him for a while, waiting to see another duck appear. It became clear that this was a lone duck.
Seeing this guy out there all alone reminded me of all the times in my career that I was out there “alone”. If you don’t know what I referring to, let me explain. There must have been times in your career that you didn’t follow the crowd.
Think about it.
For me, it was the time that I had the courage to say what everyone else was afraid to admit. Now, I’m not going to lie to you and tell you that it all worked out well. It didn’t. However, it was the right thing to do, and someone needed to do it. And I was the only one that was willing to stick my neck out. And if I could rewind the “tape” and have a do-over, I would do exactly the same thing.
Even if the result was painful. I would still definitely do it again because it was the right thing to do in that situation.
When you are experiencing this moment, you feel like that mallard that I saw walking back and forth in the street. At times, you are sure of your intentions, and feel good about your decisions and direction in life. You have purpose, integrity and are following your compass. The next moment, you are stuck. You are unsure what step you should take next and whether you just made a colossal mistake. And maybe you spend a little time like the mallard duck, not moving, wondering what the heck to do next.
And it’s certainly painful being out there all alone. We all want to be part of our social group.
Exceptional leaders go through this experience at some point in their career. They need to make a split decision that might upset the balance of their organization. Their actions can cause them to feel isolated and make them question their decision-making skills. But the truth is, you can’t become an exceptional leader unless you are willing to upset the balance now and then. Eventually, something will happen and you will feel compelled to make a change that will not be readily accepted.
So take a tip from your friend the mallard and stay the course. Reflect on your actions and be clear on what is the right way to move forward and meet your goals. Don’t be influenced by the popular decision, the one that will keep you comfortable and will ensure the status quo. As a leader, you are tasked to make the right decision-no