Inconvenient Leadership

That’s the thing about leadership, it becomes necessary in the most inopportune and chaotic times and isn’t just for the well planned and predictable environments. Our TV pilot was very well planned. The concept had been ironed out and the planned sequence of events well documented. It felt like every last detail had been covered and I was looking forward to simply executing the plan and optioning any contingency that might become necessary. We were ready.

There were over 30 people that made up the team on this project and day one and two went quite well. We ran over our intended time allotments on both days by about an hour, but in the grand scheme of things that was a small concern for me. The real money shots were going to be filmed on Friday and if there was a day that we could not afford to mess up, it was Friday.


Friday came and so did the chaos. Planned venues fell through at the last minute. Pre-arranged schedules got pushed back. We got rain – monsoons of Texas rain. All our outdoor options failed. Our plans failed, our contingencies failed and that is when the stress of orchestrated chaos came to bare on my shoulders. It became a classic leadership challenge. One in which some thrive and others cave, but all feel the pressure of the moment.

Know yourself and your team

In these kinds of moments it is helpful to know where you (and your team members) are strong and where you are not, because what is needed most in situations of rapid change and chaos is; clarity, adaptability and focus.  Clarity because when the surroundings change quickly, the end gets blurry, and the vision needs to be re-cast to keep everyone pointed clearly to the common goal. Adaptability because what was stable has now changed and dynamic inputs require constant corrections, to keep the vision attainable. Focus because amid all the change and chaos, keeping the main thing – the main thing, requires intentional focus. Otherwise the power of changing circumstances can lure you into sacrificing the vision, for the sake of attaining something concrete.

Through years of introspection and with the help of assessments like the Clifton StrengthsFinder assessment, I know that I am strong in clarity and in focus. Where I need help though, is in adaptability. So on Friday, when the wheels began to come off our neatly packaged plans and the need for clarity, adaptability and focus became necessary. I knew that I could provide two of the three items necessary. I also knew which team member could provide the other elements I did not possess.  Together, we were able to provide the necessary input to bring stability to our volatile environment, and get the money shots that we were building toward for the last two days.

Time will tell if the project will make it into the mainstream, but our experience has already shown that knowing the strengths and weaknesses of my team and myself was a critical part of building success out of a chaotic environment.

Two questions then:

  • Do you know what your strengths and vulnerabilities are?
  • How would knowing them, change the way you lead?