“I will study. I will prepare, my opportunity will come.” – Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln is quoted as saying the above quote and i am sure you agree with me that Abe is right. If you have been a girl guide, a brownie, a cub or a scout you know the motto is “be prepared”. The Scouts are right. Consistently in leadership, I hear people saying, “I’m not ready to lead” or “I couldn’t do that” or “I’m not a leader” or “What if I get asked a question I don’t know?” This is all true for all of us. Hear me right, I understand you asking those questions, I ask them too. It’s not the questions that we shouldn’t ask; it’s the pathway we use to answer them or the belief behind the statement.
When I think about life and leadership, I can’t remember a time that I REALLY was ready before I began. Talk about marriage, parenting, business, positions of influence, even job interviews. This is what I know about life and leadership. YOU’RE NEVER READY. One of the places that form my worldview on leadership is the bible. Apart from one leader of the more than four hundred leaders in there, not one was ready before they were called to lead. Not a single one.
It wasn’t their readiness that was important. Readiness isn’t the point, preparation is. Study, prepare and be alert for the opportunity that will inevitably intersect with your relationships and skills. Remember also, that your preparation serves your readiness. Here are three ways how:
1. Preparation is private, readiness is public.
Like LeBron James, preparation means spending $1.5 million a year on getting his body and mind in shape to play at the highest level. For the Olympic swimmer, preparation is being in the pool 6 days a week at 4.30am. It’s the thousands of kilometres travelled by the triathlete months before the competition. It’s the 56 hours it takes to prepare a 20 minute Talk. That’s just over 3 hours preparation for every minute of speaking. No one sees what gets done in private. We only ever see the end result. Leaders prepare ‘in the dark’ knowing that one day the time will come for light to be shed on their work and diligence. The many hours of private serve the few hours of public. Private preparation makes the public presentation count.
2. Preparation is a daily discipline; readiness is a momentary destination.
John Maxwell mentioned that people say to him regularly “I want to do what you do.” He has been quoted as responding, “You can do what I do if you DID what I DID.” There are things Maxwell does every day to make sure he continues to grow as a leader and fulfil his personal mission to the world. What handful of things must you do as a leader every day to ensure you are adding value to your life mission and to building into the lives of others? What few things like reading, journaling, writing, reflection, thought leadership, mentoring or training that will develop your skills daily will you do? Leadership develops daily, but not in a day says, Maxwell.
3. Preparation is a character, readiness is a skill.
There is nothing wrong with readiness by the way. The end goal of training, study, exercise, writing, and preparation is to present something useful to the world. At some point being proud to go public with your abilities and expertise, has to be your plan. Preparation is the willingness to go unnoticed, overlooked and passed by all the while you are preparing to offer your best work to the world. Having the character to focus on what isn’t seen so the pleasure of what IS takes humility and diligence. ‘Fixing the roof while the sun is shining’ as John F Kennedy put it; it is the priority of you as a leader. It’s one thing to want to win; it’s entirely another to have the character to prepare.
The primary goal for you as a leader is to always be preparing. Remember, you’re rarely ever ready, just unprepared. Share with us your thoughts in the comments section.