17 October 2006

Leadership and goals

Setting goals is a important part of the function of a leader. Often this is described with having a vision, although in laymen terms it is called setting goals. An important point when setting goals is setting the right goals. And to be able to set the richt goals, one needs the right information for the situation. An example of setting the richt goals and having the right information is an anecdote about a basketball player who took up running, because basketball was not really his game. Before he began running, he called a trainer. The trainers advised him to start running eight miles every day for a week and then call him back. After a week he would see results, the trainer added. After a week of running eight miles every day, the runner found he was still running the eight miles in the same time as when he began running. Disappointed he called the trainer, that his time had not improved and that could not have been the goal. The trainer answered with a question: “Are you still out of breath after running eight miles as you were at the beginning of the week?” The runner had to admit, that his condition had improved over the week. And he could only conclude that he had sat himself the wrong goals. So the only difference between the trainer and the runner, was the amount of knowledge. The trainer knew that a better running condition starts with better use of your lounges, not a faster time.

So being able to set the right goals is an important leadership skill. Setting the wrong goals will lead to disappointment and disappointment will lead to resistance. But setting the right goals needs information. Information about the possibilities and abilities and about the situation in which those abilities are to be used. It asks for the ability to tune the available abilities to the situation. To recognize which abilities are needed in a situation and see which abilities are available in yourself and your organization. But it also needs the ability to see the possibilities and impossibilities of a situation and through that set the right goals. Because setting realistic objectives, is more important to create the feeling that reality is manageable, than setting high and lofty goals, that will be forever out of reach. Besides it is more fun to make real small steps, than become disappointed over giant steps you will never make.

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