“Chop Wood & Carry Water” – because there are no transformation shortcuts

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It can be hard for very successful leaders to retool their leadership abilities.

But we all can.

It’s actually very simple, but it’s not always easy.

Easy or not, many of us are upgrading our leadership constitutions. We’re leading in times of extraordinary change; many believe it’s now or never. Many of us are self-authoring the greatest chapters of our leadership story.

Many C-suite execs have been working on their own personal retooling for many years, transforming themselves. As a result, they are amplifying the impact they have on their team, their families and their organization. They are leading differently at work and at home – it shows and it’s working.

They are building momentum towards a culture where curiosity, openness, understanding, wise risk-taking, agility, creativity, commitment and accountability become embedded in “the way we do things around here.”

These transformational leaders have chosen to engage in an ongoing mutual process of learning to raise one another up and shifting to a culture (a new system) with higher standards and higher levels of purpose, relationship and performance in order to more quickly and effectively get to the complex problem solving together.

But they were probably born for this, right? They probably have more time to work on that kind of stuff than we do. Their situation is probably different; they are different; they are special and gifted in the magical secrets that we don’t have access to.

Probably not. They are not unicorns and there are no shortcuts.

They have simply adopted new lifestyle habits that strengthen their transformation leadership muscles. We all have these muscle groups, but they haven’t all been developed yet. We all have the gift. We all have the same amount of time. With deliberate, purposeful, intensely focused practice (embedded in the way we work and schedule our days), these new muscles have helped them see more + work better + feel stronger in the face of transformation challenges. That’s how adult development works. If we want the elevated performance benefits of vertical learning we have to train in the same way that high-performance athletes develop their muscles to respond differently. Transformation leaders have been training their muscles to be transformation-fit, like Navy SEALs train to be SEALFIT . It’s a form of integrated training with specific, sustainable, lifestyle performance goals in mind.

Transformation (innovation) leaders have learned to get better at letting go of their biases and default/reactive habits in favor of greater awareness leading to resourceful, more effective habits. They have learned to respond more creatively, more collaboratively, more adaptively and more curiously. They don’t respond perfectly every time, but they recover more quickly now and they respond better more often (than yesterday) and, more importantly, when it matters most. They’ve learned to manage polarities and leverage the simple rules that drive complexity better. They have learned to use power differently and play the long game better. They’ve learned to let go of their addiction to old success formulas, dominant power structures and outdated leadership paradigms that have limited the visibility of all their options/choices/possibilities holding their teams back and holding their organizations and strategy hostage for far too long.

They have chosen to be more ready to lead change than others. They have chosen to be more ready to “mobilize for the fourth industrial revolution – It’s now or never,” proclaims the cover of KPMG’s CEO Outlook 2016. The summary headlines in this CEO report are echoed everywhere – in every forward-looking body of research: “The next three years are business critical. Industries are transforming faster than ever before. Innovation is a matter of time. Customer focus and investment will increase.”

It’s never going to be this slow again. Transformation is no longer just a business practice. It has become a way of life – a lifestyle choice for leaders in the new normal.

Are we ready to embrace transformation leadership and innovation as life? The more of us who are ready, the further we all get.

In our lifetime and our children’s lifetime , it will always be time to “chop wood and carry water.”

It’s time to fall in love with the process.

It’s time to train.

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