I’ve been a part of so many strategic planning efforts that follow the same pattern that includes, but unfortunately is not limited to:

  • A multi-day offsite with the organization’s leaders that includes reviewing mounds of previously generated research and background data, e.g., SWOT analysis,
  • revisiting or creating vision, mission, values statements, and determining critical success factors, goals, etc.
  • generating a high level outline of a strategic plan,
  • assigning teams to lead the development of the strategic plan’s components,
  • a report out of the teams results to the rest of the leadership team (a step that is repeated several times that includes lots of wordsmithing), and
  • the development of a comprehensive plan that finally achieves consensus (“I can live with and support the plan”).

“Stop the change! I want to get off!” For many of us, change is like a train taking us where we don’t want to go. And like the train rider, we can feel powerless to stop it.

But even in times of change, we have the power. Like the 1970’s television series character, the Six Million Dollar Man (“We can make him better than he was. Better, stronger, faster”), we can emerge from change better than we were before.

But we must make a choice.

Leadership is not just what we do it is also about who we are. Depending on which assessment we take some of us are classified as drivers, or type A’s, or commanding. We often look at the world around us and see so much that needs improvement.

We think: There is so much to do, it will take such a long time and I’m just one person.

Many times these observations deflate us into inaction, we reach paralysis by analysis and we do nothing instead of something because we can’t do everything. But we must understand, even when it comes to making a difference, something beats nothing.

Leaders make a difference when they are different.

But different how?

Firstly, leaders must become different from who they are now. By that, I don’t mean adopting a new identity or persona but through personal growth.

As Max De Pree says: "In the end, it is important to remember that we cannot become what we need to be by remaining what we are."

Any internet search of “leadership quotes” will invariably produce quotes that reflect the idea that leadership is about making a difference.

From Brainyquote.com: “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” -- John Quincy Adams

From Inc.com: "You are not here merely to make a living. You are here in order to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, with a finer spirit of hope and achievement. You are here to enrich the world, and you impoverish yourself if you forget the errand." -- Woodrow Wilson