Most of my articles speak to the perspective of looking at improvement from a systematic mindset. Or I spend time elaborating on basic principles of systems and how to form habits to reach a goal.
But these are really the fundamental basics. They are incredibly important but in order to truly improve and grow you will need to expand behind this basic understanding of systems.
Daniel Goleman has done a lot research and writing on the topic of Emotional Intelligence. He has spent decades evaluating how an individual responds emotionally to various situations.
Daniel Goleman wrote an article in the Harvard Business Review that has stuck with me over the years. In my opinion it is the very best look at leadership. After reading hundreds of books, articles, websites etc. on leadership, his short article presents leadership in a much more accurate way than most. The article is called Leadership that Gets Results.
Goleman relates leadership to a golfer. He says that leadership is extremely complex and different leadership styles affect the situation differently. In other words being a good leader and choosing the best leadership style for the situation is like a golfer choosing the right club for the shot.
Most books on leadership give one particular leader or one particular leadership style to model rather than understanding the complexity of leadership. A coaching style is great when you have young, eager people to lead. A pacesetting leadership style might be great when you have hungry and experienced sales people. But this just represents matching the right leadership style to the right situation. A young, eager staff would likely not respond well (according to the research Goleman illustrates) to the pacesetting leadership style.
Therefore the best leaders understand multiple ways of leading people and can read the situation and utilize the most effective style available. They can also start to grow their leadership capabilities by understanding there are many ways to get things done as a leader and that a focus on improvement can always help us get better. It models the approach professional golfers use who don't just rely on their putting or their driver, but they work to improve in every situation.
This simple article seems to shine a light on some great leaders in the past and provide explanation why they could be so effective in certain situations but not in others. Effective leadership isn’t absolute and relies on various factors, one of which is the situation.
Systems and habits work is the same way. The end result isn’t to become a robot and form rigid habits. It is actually to understand the various ways to improve and use the systems and habits mindset to carve a pathway to get there. Similar to the golfer choosing the right club or the leader choosing the right leadership style we have to be able to monitor our improvement and then choose the right systems and habits in order to keep growing. Without this understanding we will reach a plateau and we won’t be able to keep going. We will simply maintain without improving, or worse we will form rigid habits that actually take us away from our goals without even realizing it.
In order to reach your true potential you have to move behind the fundamentals. A professional athlete will still take time to work on fundamentals but they keep moving beyond those to the advanced aspects of the game. Then they work to solidify those. A great writer gets to the point where basic writing is natural but they focus more and more on the message. A great musician continues to work on musical scales and basic practices but shifts to focus on the creative and stylistic elements of the music.
Whatever you are trying to achieve understand that the systems and habits approach provides a great foundation and improvement in the fundamentals but to truly master this approach you also have to move beyond the basics and continue to climb higher and higher. Paradoxically this may feel like a move away from systems and habits. But in reality, flexibility is an important part of the systems mindset.