The Rhythm of Leadership

The primary goal of any system is balance, and as a leader, your role is to orchestrate the balance within the organisational system. When a system falls out of harmony we get dis-ease; and yet many leaders I meet don’t understand the importance of balance and creating a sustainable rhythm to ensure the system works optimally.

Everything in nature has a natural rhythm, and this provides predictable results which make us feel safe and secure. Systems provide clarity, and with clarity comes certainty. We know that every day the sun will rise and set, and during the year we will experience four different seasons. It is this rhythm and flow that keeps nature in balance. Imagine the chaos and confusion that would ensue if we couldn’t rely on the sun to come up every day. How would we all cope with life? We wouldn’t be able to plan anything, and the farmers would have no idea when to plant or reap their crops.

Yet, in the Digital Era, leaders seem to have lost this sense of rhythm. We have forgotten that business has an ebb and flow to it; and if we keep our foot on the gas pedal all the time, we will eventually burn out.

There is no irony that in nature there are seasons for different activities. There are months when planting is optimal (Spring), then there is a cultivation stage (Summer), and finally the reaping season (Autumn). However, in business we seem to have forgotten this. In fact, all too often I see leaders trying to reap what they have sown before it has had the opportunity to cultivate and grow.

Just think of a new team member. We invest time and energy into their development, and then promote them before they have had the opportunity to embody the skill set for the existing role. In effect, we harvest before the cultivation stage; and this can have a damaging effect for all parties involved.

This lack of patience and self-discipline to wait during the cultivation phase is born out of our desire for instance gratification. As a society, we want everything now. We have a low tolerance for patience, often feeling that inaction during this time is wasted. And yet, by forcing ourselves to wait and cultivate people, products and projects get better results than if we had harvested right after we had sown.

Increasingly, leaders need to recognise the importance that consistent actions each and every day will enable success. Remember the story of the hare and the tortoise. The hare rushed around, convinced he would win the race, but eventually burnt out; whilst the tortoise engaged in a steady, consistent pace and so beat the hare. Note: the tortoise didn’t go slowly, but rather moved steadily. He consistently put one foot in front of the next to reach his goal, and it was this consistent energy and focus that ensured success.

Think out about it. How many projects have you led where you have started out all guns blazing, only to falter part way through? I see this so many times with my clients. They get excited about a new idea, put loads of energy and resources behind it, and fail to consider the impact that this has on the rest of the business. Then in time, as barriers and obstacles appear, the project starts to stall; and getting it back on track seems near impossible.

The principle of inertia is that an object resists change. This is why, when a project loses momentum, it takes time and energy to re-ignite it. Just like an airplane uses a large percentage of its fuel to take off, a stalled project needs a massive injection of resources to get it going. I would assert that starting and stopping a project uses way more resources than the consistent, steady action of working on the project daily.

So as a leader, how can you harness the power of nature’s natural rhythms to improve performance? What actions can you take to take to mirror the tortoise’s consistent steady approach rather than the speed of the hare?