“The truth changes.”
The first time I heard that sentence, my inside voice pushed back. It was a reflex from my belief in absolute truth. (Perceptions of it may be flawed, but it exists.)
My friend wasn’t talking about absolute truth. Instead, he was describing the rapid-even-sudden way that reality “on the ground” changes, leaving us following plans designed for outdated versions of what we think is true.
My friend had served as a leader and expert tactician in Army special operations. Imagine receiving a short mission brief and immediately heading to a helicopter to capture an elusive enemy. It’s almost guaranteed that, by the time you reach the helicopter, the truth on the ground has changed. The elusive enemy is in a different building. There are more fighters. There’s non-combatants. And so on.
By the time you land, the truth has changed again…and maybe there’s a different building that wasn’t even on the map.
Our best special operators reflexively adapt to such evolutions of battlefield truth. It is the world they know.
The rest of us struggle, to varying degrees.
Yet this practice, to see and adapt to changing truth, is an essential task for a leader. As Max de Pree said, “The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality.” (Gabe Smith at 3rd Source recently reminded me of this. Read here how he named reality on 9/11.)
As a leader, how are you recognizing when truth has changed?
One technique is to ask the question “What’s Important Now?” or W.I.N. I first heard of W.I.N from my colleague Brian Willis, who attributes it to Notre Dame Coach Lou Holtz. Holtz had his players ask it 10+ times a day to help them navigate the complexities of their student-athlete lives. It’s a helpful mantra for leaders. It’s also a simple way to spark leadership development.
It provokes us to look for changed truth and act accordingly.
As you lead today, what’s important now?
By Jamey Gadoury
Photo courtesy of Aaron Burden via Unsplash. Follow him on Instagram at @aaronburden or Twitter @theaaronburden.