Thought for the Week: Staying the course

"Perseverance is not a long race; it is many short races, one after the other." Walter Elliott

I have the honor at this moment of teaching a leadership class to a group of soon-to-be graduated DeVos MBA students in Montreux Switzerland. They range from probably 24 years old to 40, and are from countries as diverse as Iran, Uganada, Malyasia, Canada and of course the United States as well as many other countries. This program is intense, with a series of class after class, covering eight weeks of material in two weeks but with the expectation that there performance in class is no less than if they were in a longer, more reasonably paced, program.

The thing that strikes me about these students, and about successful leaders in general, is not that Perseverance is crucial to success they manage to solve the issues of the day. The impressive thing is that they simply do what needs to be done, when it needs to be done, facing each challenge as it comes there way. The exhausting thing about leadership  is that perseverance is not just a personality characteristic…it’s a lifestyle.

By itself, obviously, perseverance does not define a successful leader. But I believe that it IS a characteristic that most successful leaders hold. It is the ability, not only to hold a vision, but to not let the distractions of the day allow that vision to become jaded or to fade into the shadows.  It’s easy to be a leader (or a student) when times are easy. The real leaders know that difficulty is not only possible, it’s inevitable. In some ways, it’s supposed to be difficult at times. That’s where leaders learn to be leaders. And while education, strategy, tools and processes play an important role in the ability of the leader to achieve her or his objective, perseverance is the characteristic that allows those tools to be used in a way that creates the experience necessary to be successful.

I’m convinced that you can’t teach perseverance. It comes not only from commitment but from a willingness to do what it takes to achieve your vision. If you have perseverance, you may not be guaranteed to be a perfect leader, but without it, you are highly unlikely to experience the satisfaction of success.

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