Discovering Elegant Leadership with Bill and Ted

As the weather begins to turn and days become longer, many of us will take the time outdoors to enjoy everything Spring offers us – warm grass on our feet, the aroma of blooming flowers, kids playing outdoors, the heat of the afternoon sun and maybe a picnic by the lake or the beach. Funny thing about picnics is the amount of food we amass on those small flimsy plates much in the same way our lives are filled with the things we feel we have to do for work and for our families – rather than the things we are made to do. We begin to react out of obligation instead of celebration…you know, do more with less! We begin our two-part series in Discovering Elegant Leadership with Bill and Ted from the movie, Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, two seemingly dumb teens struggle to prepare a history report with the help of a time machine, much like how some leaders lead.

Every leadership decision we make produces a result, not from our brilliance but as a result of who we are and what we believe and stand for. With 24 hours in every day, every increasing demands from every direction at work, multiple projects, priorities and deadlines and squeezing every ounce of resources from every employee, our plates have spilled all over our Alan Edmonds and Louboutin’s. The question becomes what are we doing and who are we doing it for? When are plates are filled with all of the things, we feel, we have to do, rather than the things we were made to do, we are operating out of obligation and we certainly aren’t celebrating that fact.

Ted: Strange things are afoot at the Circle-K.

Elegant Leadership isn’t about making the masses happy. It isn’t about rallying the troops to adapt and overcome any and every obstacle put before them. It’s not about picking up the flag and leading either. Elegant Leadership is leading with humility, authenticity and gratitude. It’s making the whole greater than the individual parts. It’s being response-able to move all of those around us forward to achieve our potential with our given talents and intangibles each of us bring to our organizations. As an Elegant Leader, one who leads with Voltage, we understand and embrace the fact one day we will be held accountable for our stewardship of the resources given us.

Anyone can see a problem! It takes a leader, an Elegant Leader, to examine why the problem is there, decide what to do about it and how to implement a solution. Leaders deal with problems, yet Elegant Leaders overcome problems with viable solutions with voltage – they don’t run from them. Many people want the title of leader or to be put in a position of leadership, yet when it comes to leading we are like the river in Africa. Denial leads to disaster. It’s rare to learn from our successes and being uncomfortable allows us to stretch our capabilities. Elegant Leadership means embracing every situation we’re faced with. We’re not given problems to ‘post and hope.’ Elegant Leadership is actively participating by becoming the leader we’ve been called to be. Decisions have consequences, good and bad sometimes; that doesn’t mean we’re to put off and delay or ignore the risks associated with those decisions.

“What would you be willing to do if you knew you could not fail?”

We can do great things if we truly believe we can. We can grow a movement of Elegant Leaders and change entire communities by leading with simplicity, grace and purpose. Most of the time, our biggest obstacle is ourselves. Maybe we ‘mailed-it-in’ resigned the fact that ‘this’ is as far as I can go. Or maybe, we’re fearful of failure so we didn’t share our aspirations, because that failure would ruin our reputation as leaders let alone our own ego. Elegant Leadership is keeping ego, results and relationships in rhythm.

Bill: Ted, while I agree that, in time, our band will be most triumphant. The truth is, Wyld Stallyns will never be a super band until we have Eddie Van Halen on guitar.

Ted: Yes, Bill. But, I do not believe we will get Eddie Van Halen until we have a triumphant video.

Bill: Ted, it’s pointless to have a triumphant video before we even have decent instruments.

Ted: Well, how can we have decent instruments when we don’t really even know how to play?

Bill: That is why we NEED Eddie Van Halen!

Ted: And THAT is why we need a triumphant video.

Let go of the past and quit worrying about the future! Elegant Leaders stay in the present, lead in the moment and anticipate the future. Your greatest fears and obstacles are you and you alone. Your growth as an Elegant Leader comes from being uncomfortable, getting it off cruise control and pressing onward towards your biggest dreams for you, your company and your community.  Stand fast and fight the urge to maintain the status quo. Instead, do everything possible to advance the cause that’s been placed in your heart and soul. Stay focused on what can be instead of what has been.

What’s one decision you need to make to advance your cause and stay focused on the future?

Occasionally, it will rain out your picnic and instead of hitting the lake you have to opt in for an indoor party. You don’t start pulling leftovers from the fridge, do you? Heck no, you go all out and give them your very best! In a couple weeks, spring football practices will begin in Tuscaloosa and the underlying theme since Nick Saban came to town is, “…the separation is in the preparation; it’s about the process…” The reason Alabama wins week-in, week-out is practice is far more difficult than the games, and they prepare better than any other team. While they do have great talent and skill, it’s not their facilities that make them great. It’s not they’re smarter, stronger or faster than any other team. No, it’s their preparation that’s better than any other team. The same is true for us! The separation from good leaders and Elegant Leaders with Voltage is the preparation they are willing to go through in order to be the absolute best leader they can be. Organizations and great leaders anticipate great things and prepare for greater things!

“It seems to me the only thing you’ve learned is that Caesar is a ‘salad dressing dude’.”

Sitting and soaking wanting something great to be thrust upon you or your company is not the way to move forward. It can be used as fuel to start the fire, but alone it won’t accomplish a damn thing. Water don’t boil at 210 degrees either. It ain’t a lack of vision that holds many of us back from achieving our greatest potential, but rather our lack of execution. Remember what John McKay said about the execution of his Tampa Bay Bucs after a drubbing by the Steelers…“I’m all for it.” If you’re going to do anything worthwhile, then doesn’t it make sense to go the distance?

There will never be a day when we don’t have a ‘next step’ to take in our role as a leader, and no one said we have to be perfect. We should work hard, learn continuously and trust in the process. We cannot effectively lead people if we are not dedicated to increasing our own capacity to lead and to Lead Elegantly. My grandfather used to say, “…ya can’t rush corn, son. It gonna grow when it’s gonna grow…” The former Michigan football coach, Bo Schembechler used to say you’re either getting better or your getting worse, you never stay the same.

Are you honestly giving your best effort in how you’ve been called to lead?

What steps are you taking to increase your own knowledge and leadership capacity?

Just like the movie, Bill and Ted’s excellent adventure, there was a sequel and we will continue this two-part series tomorrow and move forward with the people you surround yourself with, changes we make and leading is loving people.

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