On Leadership: Go for the Moon

I had the opportunity to interact with some students last week. The conversation post class got onto goal settings. A youngstar one remarked as his argument towards setting high goals ‘One should aim for the stars; you may not get them but you will atleast not come down with handful of sand’ An often heard statement so I was least prepared when I heard a vociferous counter to this. Another student vehemently said this statement was one that reflected a very sub average goal setting mindset.

Surprised we listened on as he explained:  ‘The statement is asking you to reach out for some stars from the millions available. So once you manage to stretch your hand; your options are actually limitless; but the goal statement limits it to just a handful. Also the second half of the statement makes it look like you have already built in a certain acceptable level for failure. The reason for setting this goal does not seem to be to encourage the doer to grab the stars – but to tell him it is okay if he fail!!’ In a normal situation I would have dismissed this as a typical cynical reaction by a Gen-Y to something that is so established. But on my way back to office; I could not help being bothered by this. Do we have leadership lessons here?

How do we set our goals? Whenever we start something new, what is our approach? Does it define success and achievement in Boolean or does it allow a permissible error? How often do we make statements similar to ‘Let us attempt for 120 so at least we will achieve 100’..Very often our goals have certain negotiable factor to success. Then is this the right way? When you set goals like this could you be countering your own intent?

Instead of aiming for just a handful of stars from the millions that are available – should we not aim for the singular Moon? Then like the archer who is focused not on the parrot as a whole but its ‘eye’ – all our efforts would then be on the single success criteria. In today’s highly competitive environment apart from redefining our outlook; we may even need to reframe the existing sayings and quotes to be more aligned to our current context!

How we set our goals for ourselves and our team, how we communicate them and how we lead to achieve these are important. As leaders it is important that are thoughts, actions and attitude align themselves without any margin of mis-interpretation or error. Tough task – but who said being a leader is easy?

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