Momentum is important. It is important in sport, it is important in life. We are always encouraged to keep moving and ‘moving forward’ is the marketing tagline for one of Africa’s most prominent banks. Making progress, constant motion, pushing on…the refrain however it is dressed-up is constant and unrelenting. It is what we are meant to do; it is what we must do. Always.
But, there is a glory in getting stuck.
Getting stuck is an enforced opportunity to pause; to consider; to rethink matters. For many, getting stuck is the only way we will ever get to do such important work. Getting stuck forces us to consider where we are, where it is we are going and how we will get there. It forces us to look for another way and it opens us to the possibility that the ‘other way’ might even prove to be a ‘better way’.
Getting stuck is important at both an individual and at a collective level. Getting stuck is always challenging but the benefits – be that personal or collective, are the same. Leaders are required to understand that getting stuck is part of the journey and in so doing help those they lead understand the same. Smart leaders understand the opportunities and possibilities that getting stuck affords and as such, they take full advantage of the time when ‘stuck’ describes the current reality. Of course they know that being stuck for too long can harm and even mean destruction. They appreciate the inherent dangers of getting stuck but don’t allow those dangers to override the opportunity such moments provide. The danger of the moment, the unexpected loss of momentum, of making progress is possibly why when we get stuck, the first instinct is to panic. However, not to panic – to accept the enforced pause and take from it what it offers is a real test of leadership.
The tools for learning and extracting us from such moments include things such as questions: Why has this happened? What needs to change? What did we miss? What do we need? Who can help us? What can we learn? What is the opportunity here? Questions, good questions are the tools we can use to seize the opportunity that being stuck offers. However, we will also need other types of tools: patience, resilience, composure, perspective and openness. In talking about leadership character it is said that crisis doesn’t build character, it reveals character. Getting stuck along the leadership journey offers the opportunity to develop such characteristics – characteristics that one-day will be fully tested in crisis.
Yes, contrary to what it might appear, there is a glory to being stuck.
Next time you or your team find yourself stuck, have the presence of mind as a leader to ensure that you take from that time all you need in order to find that ‘better way’; learn from it and ensure that you strengthen those qualities that will help ensure you survive the real tests that will surely follow.
Getting stuck is not only part of the journey; it is necessary to the journey. But smart leaders know that and as such, they welcome the glory of getting stuck!
Be such a leader.