Perhaps it was the loss of a loved one. Or the closure of a business. We may have experienced the departure of valued colleagues…and though we may have said to one another “Let’s stay in touch,” we’ve all said or heard those words enough to know that, absent a routine and a strong relationship, it’s more likely we’ll drift apart.
All of us lost the comfort of life-as-usual.
Yet this time of change can be liberating.
“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life,” said Steve Jobs less than eight weeks before his own death. “No one wants to die…[and yet] death is very likely the single best invention of life. It’s life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new.”
Here are three points for your consideration:
First, as summer comes to a close and we turn our attention to finishing this remarkable year, take the time to reflect on what matters most to you. Download this free one-page goal-setting template: The 7 Fs.
“Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose,” said Jobs. “You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”
Second, think about relationships that require tending or mending.
On this day in history in 1974, President Gerald R. Ford pardoned Richard Nixon, who had resigned as a result of the Watergate scandal.
Many historians believe the controversy that swirled following Ford’s decision cost him the election in 1976.
And yet Ford, who had succeeded to the presidency upon Nixon’s resignation, explained before a national television audience that he felt the pardon was in the best interests of the country.
“It could go on and on and on,” said Ford, “or someone must write the end to it. I have concluded that only I can do that, and if I can, I must.”
Third, think about a tough decision you’re facing.
While every person makes hundreds of decisions every day, leaders distinguish themselves in their decision-making: the stakes are almost always higher, the number of people affected by their decisions greater, and the responsibility to make the decision is theirs alone. To be a leader, you must make decisions.
Leaders don’t always make the right decision. At the front end of most choices, it’s impossible to know all of the things that will happen as a result of a single decision. Yet leaders are compelled to decide without fully knowing the consequences of their choices. Decision-making comes with the territory. Successful leaders learn from a bad decision and make a better decision the next time. Exceptional leaders make more good decisions than others when the stakes are the highest.
My new book—How Leaders Decide: A Timeless Guide to Making Tough Choices—examines the decisions surrounding 52 of history’s greatest triumphs and tragedies, and each vignette offers a different set of insights and lessons for today’s leaders.
“I have learned already in this office,” said Ford in 1974 upon becoming President, “that the difficult decisions always come to this desk. I must admit that many of them do not look at all the same as the hypothetical questions that I have answered freely and perhaps too fast on previous occasions. My customary policy is to try and get all the facts and to consider the opinions of my countrymen and to take counsel with my most valued friends. But these seldom agree, and in the end, the decision is mine. To procrastinate, to agonize, and to wait for a more favorable turn of events that may never come or more compelling external pressures that may as well be wrong as right, is itself a decision of sorts and a weak and potentially dangerous course for a President to follow.”
After Ford left the White House in 1977, he privately justified his pardon of Nixon by carrying in his wallet a portion of the text of Burdick v. United States, a 1915 U.S. Supreme Court decision that suggests that a pardon carries an imputation of guilt and that acceptance carries a confession of guilt.
In 2001, the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation awarded the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award to Ford for his pardon of Nixon. In presenting the award to Ford, Senator Ted Kennedy said that he had initially opposed the pardon of Nixon, but later concluded that history had proven Ford had made the correct decision.
What tough challenge now awaits your decision?
To dive even deeper into the topic of accountability, I invite you to purchase a copy of my bestselling book, “Accountability: The Key to Driving a High-Performance Culture.”
Business schools teach case studies. Hollywood blockbusters are inspired by true events.
Exceptional leaders are students of history. Decision-making comes with the territory.