Leadership is a constantly unfolding process. Our current skill level as leaders may be good enough for today, but it won’t be adequate for next year. Many well-meaning leaders can drift into a delusional mindset that they have “arrived.” The truth is that good leaders never rest on their laurels; they know that past successes can hinder future achievement more than even failure, if they let it. That’s where wisdom comes in to play. Smart leaders learn how to collect wisdom from others. Life moves too fast to collect all of what we need by just our own process of trial and error. I’ve learned there are two teachers in life: wisdom and consequences. We can learn life lessons, gain experiences, glean knowledge, and garner understanding from both. The problem is that the teacher of consequences builds a leader’s capacity much slower, and in the global world of today, that just doesn’t cut it.
Wise leaders learn how to gather wisdom beyond their own experience. They learn from others. And most importantly, wise leaders live the “Kaizen” way, a Japanese philosophy that focuses on continuous improvement throughout all aspects of life. “Kai” means change, while “zen” means to make better. Together, the word literally means “make a change for the better.”
After World War II, the Japanese economy was in disarray. The Japanese government
consulted American business consultant Dr. William Edwards Deming, who told leaders
that if they embraced kaizen principles, in five to 10 years, their economy would turn around, and in 30 years they’d be a global economic power. Once they began to understand the benefits of things like “team debriefing” and “reflective evaluating,” the Japanese economy exploded.
As leaders, we should all be constantly improving–improving in how we solve problems,
excelling in the quality of our relationships, enhancing the quality of our work teams,
excelling in people skills and business acumen, and most importantly, deepening the quality of our character. Let’s continue to cheer each other on to always pursue knowledge, understanding, faith, and wisdom. Keep sharpening your axe. Be willing to improve. Never stop. There is still so much to learn!
Today, choose one thing that you will focus on. Make it your goal to improve. Is it a relationship? A skill? A perspective? You choose. Start small but start now.