During a White House news conference, a CEO said, “We go to war with a strategy. But we win the war with logistics.” After several minutes, I suddenly had an A-ha moment. I knew exactly what he meant. I immediately made some notes on my phone.
Action plans are important, but it is the guiding values that help us to execute our vision and achieve our mission.
Let me start with a story.
Four nomads were walking from four separate directions. After several days, the four nomads came to a crossroads. It was late in the afternoon and the sun was beginning to set. Fortunately, nearby was a rest area. All checked in. As they wound down for the evening, one nomad said, we are all tired and hungry. We have been traveling from afar. Perhaps we still have a ways to go. The nomad suggested that if each gives a fist full of rice, there will be enough rice for the evening and for the morning. He continued, “We can go to sleep on a full stomach and start our journey on a full stomach.” They all nodded in agreement. Another nomad grabbed a pot, poured in the water, and placed it on the stove. He reached into his sack, grabbed a fist full, opened the lid, reached into the pot, and then closed the lid. The other nomads repeated in the same manner.
After several minutes the water began to boil and the steam began to rise. They knew the rice was ready. All four grabbed their plates and walked to the stove. One opened the lid, and all noticed that in the pot was just the boiling water. All four went to sleep on empty stomachs.
This is a leadership story.
The first lesson is when you put nothing into anything you will get nothing out of everything.
The second lesson is that leadership is about purpose-driven life. The phrase is often used, and it certainly sounds cliché. So, what does that mean?
The purpose refers to the rules of the road. Those rules are your values and the specific set of actions that support those values. The values + actions are your logistics. When you, I, and everyone are guided by the right set of values + actions, then we are living a purpose-driven life. A culture based on the right set of values naturally sprouts purpose-driven individuals and organizations.
Take a look at Delta Air Lines. One of the biggest airlines in the world. All their employees have a booklet called Rules of the Road. The booklet clearly, and line by line, states 5 Core Values supported by 11 Important Behaviors. These values & behaviors are the basis for everything they do, from the CEO to everyone down the ladder.
This airline has gone through all types of dire circumstances in the last 20 years. Through all these years the employees continue to pour their hearts into everything they do. They have become the protagonists of the company. The company became so incredibly successful in the last 5 years, that the Delta leadership shared their gratitude by paying out more than 6.5 billion dollars in profits directly to the employees – a milestone that no other company has ever achieved. Today, in this unprecedented time, the CEO is working with no pay and asked the employees if they would volunteer to take unpaid time off to save the company (the company lost over $60 million dollars a day due to 80% reduction in operations). As of mid-April, close to 30,000 employees have taken unpaid leave to save the company. That is a value and purpose-driven company to have such employees.
How about our organization, Toastmasters International?
Our tagline proudly reads, “Where Leaders are Made.” I must admit, that is quite an attractive and enticing motto. However, Toastmasters is not a production factory, where anyone goes in as somebody and automatically comes out as a leader. So how does Toastmasters make Leaders?
Did you know Toastmasters International has a set of Core Values, too?
Integrity, Respect, Service, Excellence.
Did you also know that those Core Values are supported by a set of Important Behaviors (there are 10 actions)? Toastmasters call that behavior A Toastmaster’s Promise.
I've always believed that when I put in the work, the results will show. Toastmasters has proven it for me. The success of our clubs depends on the work we put in. If all of us adhere to Toastmasters values and its set of behaviors, the efforts will not only reflect in the club’s success, it will also make us Leaders. The values and behaviors are processes, or the logistics, for making the leaders.
This is why I encourage you to take pride in taking up roles. Show enthusiasm. We walked into Toastmasters with eagerness and high hopes for ourselves. If we allow these values and behaviors to guide us, in turn, the values and the behaviors will allow us to achieve our hopes and purpose for joining Toastmasters.
Let me share one more story.
Imagine you're traveling through a construction site. You are walking through all sorts of noises and activities. You come across a man with the sledgehammer and he's smashing those rocks. “What's going on here?” you ask him. The man responds with a grim look on his face. “What does it look like I'm doing? I'm breaking rocks.”
You thank him and continue to walk through the site. There is another man with a sledgehammer breaking up rocks. “What's going on here?” you ask. The man responds, with a smile, “Hey I'm making a living.”
You thank him and continue the walk. You come across the third man with a sledgehammer. “What's going on here?” you ask. He looks upwards with an extended arm, and replies, “I'm building a cathedral.”
The 3rd man does not see what he is doing as trivial. He is guided by a set of values that allows him to see the greatness of the end result, the vision.
If you are running an organization, wouldn’t you love to have a man or a woman of such character on your side? But wait, what if that man or woman is you?
Values and supporting behaviors will define us and our endeavors. Right values and supporting behaviors bring out the zest within ourselves. It is the intrinsic nature of the values that will help us to make decisions, take actions, big or small, with full assurance.
So, establish your values and supporting behaviors. Let them become your logistics and go achieve your vision!