A.B. Meldrum once said,
Bear in mind, if you are going to amount to anything, that your success does not depend upon the brilliancy and the impetuosity with which you take hold, but upon the ever lasting and sanctified bull-doggedness with which you hang on after you have taken hold.”
Most of my clients would probably never hire me if I told them it was going to take five years to complete the major changes we talk about at the beginning of many of my consulting assignments. At one high-tech company, after three years of intensive effort to develop a new leadership style and corporate culture, the leadership team asked me to evaluate how they were doing. I asked them to rank their “completeness” in each of several major change categories. Overall, they ranked themselves at about 60 percent. I admitted that if they had asked me at the beginning of the process how long it was going to take, I would have estimated five years—so 60 percent after three years was just about right.
One strong leader whom I’m working with now took over an assignment three years ago in one of America’s largest corporations. When he was hired he was actually identified as the “change agent” that the company needed. Needed, maybe, but certainly not wanted. After three years of struggling with the internal practices of the company, he has finally assembled a leadership team that should be able to carry out the many changes that are needed to meet the firm’s looming challenges. I can recall many one-on-one conversations with him over the last three years when he wondered if he had the energy to keep going and whether it would be worth it in the end. But he has endured. I believe he will pick the fruit of an enduring company.
A leader needs to understand that he or she may quite naturally have an easy time focusing on the future or on how the future will look when certain projects, tasks, or goals are completed. Others within their teams may not be able to clearly or easily see the future, or they may be naturally pessimistic about anything involving the future. A leader needs the persistence to bring these people along—they are valuable to the team’s overall balance. They may simply need the leader to either ask them questions to propel them into the future or help them visualize steps to the future outcome.
Bringing an organization along also involves being particularly effective during times of change. Many on the team will naturally resist change, so leaders need to humbly and calmly coax people along to the new direction or vision.
Throughout the history of man, the greatest achievements have been accomplished by leaders having an against-all-odds tenacity. The unshakable convictions of the rightness of their causes have kept adventurers, explorers, entrepreneurs, and visionaries going despite overwhelming difficulty and fierce competition. They were and continue to be persistent, holding fast to their beliefs and moving the idea or the organization forward.
That’s the path to building an enduring organization.