Leaders Don’t Wait for Any Cycle

2010 Update: I made the decision to bring Say “Alaka‘i” here to Talking Story in late May of 2010 when the Honolulu Advertiser, where the blog previously appeared, was merged with the Star Bulletin (Read more at Say “Alaka‘i” is Returning to the Mothership).

Therefore, the post appearing below is a copy of the one which had originally appeared there on November 25, 2008, so we will be able to reference it in the future when the original url it had been published on is no more…


Leaders Don’t Wait for Any Cycle

We all know that the economic climate of our nation and the world is a messy affair, and we in Hawai‘i are in that mess along with everyone else.

There are many economists talking about “cycles” right now, including those here in our islands, and they’re driving me crazy. I understand their good intentions; they don’t want to contribute to a full-blown panic and they want to be the voice of reason. Well, newsflash; our panic is already happening, and I question how you define reasonableness.

I think these well-intentioned economists are hurting us more than helping us.

Alaka‘i-preferred leadership is why I feel that way: Leaders know that waiting, wishing and hoping for things “to get better again” of their own haphazard volition is a lousy strategy. In fact, it’s no strategy at all.

Leaders don’t wait for some cycle to self-correct.
Leaders know there is no such thing as the perfect cycle, so why wait for it?

Cycle talk is stifling; it’s the talk of hesitation.
Hesitation kills energy; it drains it out of us and wastes it.
Even worse, cycle talk can direct whatever energy we do muster up toward lemming-like behavior, where damaging auto-pilot gets proliferated.

On the other hand, Alaka‘i Leaders know a better future is a constant work in progress, and they realize we can’t waste our time and our energy sitting around, playing it safe, and waiting things out. (To do so is also boring).

What are you working on right now?

We’ve defined the Leader as the person who works on visionary ideas, whether the idea is theirs or the brilliant proposition of someone else. To a leader, that phrase “works on” is largely about strategies which make ‘hoping’ for the idea both possible and plausible.

Remember: Leaders create the energy of movement, something ‘waiting’ is the exact opposite of. President-elect Barack Obama understood this when he picked The Audacity of Hope as the title for his book, and within it he wrote,

“I suspect that some readers may find my presentation of these issues to be insufficiently balanced. To this accusation, I stand guilty as charged. I am a Democrat””

If you are a leader, or you want to be one, you don’t like waiting around for cycles, for consensus, or for a perfected idea. You think that ‘audacity’ is a good word, and an even better personal quality. You recognize the seeds of great ideas, for your instincts tell you that even a partially germinated idea is far better than no idea-seeding at all. You think any idea can be a catalyst for working on better strategies; you work on improving both idea and strategy as you go along.

If you are a leader, or you want to be one, I’m guessing you are getting very impatient right now, and I say, good for you! Is there any doubt remaining that Mr. Obama’s visionary thinking about what a United States presidency could be started way before he took the podium for his keynote address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention?

Get impatient; patience is not a virtue in a recession.

Leaders don’t wait for cycles to self-correct; they have better ideas about improving old cycles —and they are working on them. Even if they don’t have a better idea yet, they know they can think of one if they concentrate on doing so. They will get pretty impatient with themselves until they can get to work on a great idea, and they smartly channel their impatience to the good usefulness of coming up with one.

This recession we are in can cause you to be a catalyst. Define recession however you like, I say we’re in one so we can focus on the movement that saying so provides us with. Are the economic effects we now feel Hawai‘i providing unrest for you and adding to your sense of impatience? They are for me.

Dean Boyer offered us a terrific definition for catalyst in his comment here last Thursday.
He wrote:

“I love the phrase “obliterate obstacles,” which sounds like an explosive approach against impediments. I can see it working best with processes and procedures that impede progress. However, if the obstacle is a person, a more patient approach might be best, especially if the person is worth the patient investment. Having worked in the people business (education) for more than 30 years, I have seen the wisdom of another word “catalyst.” A chemist friend of mine defined it not as something which causes other things to occur but as something which lowers resistance so change can occur.”

Hmm. Not as something which causes other things to occur, but as something which lowers resistance so change can occur.” How about someone who lowers resistance so change can occur?

Dean was referring to how we manage others (thus his call for patience), but how about how we manage ourselves? The first thing we manage is our attitude (optimistic or pessimistic), and then our value-based expectations of our own behavior (waiting around, or working on something) and we ask ourselves some questions:

  • Can my impatience help me by challenging me to create better?
  • Is my hesitation the biggest obstacle I face right now?
  • What resistance do I have to change, and why?
  • If I don’t like the change I am in, what ‘replacement change’ can I generate and work on instead?

Then voila, those answers become your new idea, one borne of self-generated energies.

This recession can be your opportunity for reinvention.

Cycle talk is keeping us scratching along in survival mode. Business models which have been held together by the contingency called “a hope and a prayer” are falling apart, with all their weaknesses exposed. This is no fun at all.

However I do know this; business models can be reinvented fairly quickly, and doing so with Alaka‘i-branded management and leadership is way more fun!

Both managers and leaders have a fabulous opportunity to reshape business right now, creating a brand-spanking new economic landscape that is much more fertile and sustaining than the one we’ve been in. You need not take on the scale of a presidential campaign; there is much you can do right within your own circle of influence. Begin with small projects, and your success will fuel efforts with larger ones.

And I am not saying you change everything. By all means, Ho‘omau [continue to persevere]; persist with, and perpetuate those basics which you know to be good and right for you —your value alignment is the clue to what those things are. However get brave and reinvent too; reframe and innovate where your idea hunches lead you. Work on your ideas as the process of thinking more about them.

Please, don’t wait for any cycle. You’re smarter than that, and we need you to show us what you’re made of. I prefer to put my faith in people, than in cycles and in any processes or systems stuck in the mediocrity of auto-pilot. So what if we make mistakes here and there? We learn and move on.

Let’s talk story about the kinds of reinvention which are possible right now:

What suggestions do you have which could be catalysts for someone else too? Share your thoughts and your Aloha, for we’ve all got work to do! Seeds of ideas are welcomed and encouraged; you need not have all the answers, for we are in this together.

Article originally published on Say “Alaka‘i” November 2008
Leaders Don’t Wait for Any Cycle