Confronting reality is not something that comes easily or naturally for leaders (or anyone for that matter). Reason is, confronting reality usually means there is a problem. And who wants to deal with a problem?
- Things are not going that well in the organization.
- Something is broken and needs fixed.
- There is a behavioral issue that is not being addressed.
- Financial performance is in the tank.
- And the list goes on…
Here’s the funny thing about confronting reality though. Whether you confront it or not, it’s still real! It’s not going away. You may want it to just go away, but if it were that easy, then we wouldn’t need leaders, would we.
In his classic book, Good to Great, Jim Collins talked about the importance of “confronting the brutal facts,” while at the same time never losing faith that in the end, you will prevail, overcoming whatever challenge you face, no matter how big. He called this the “Stockdale Paradox,” named after Admiral James Stockdale, who spent seven years being tortured as a P.O.W. in Vietnam. Of his experience, Stockdale said, “You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end—which you can never afford to lose—with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.”
Bottom line is this: as a leader it takes courage and a willingness to embrace discomfort in order to confront reality in your organization or on your team. Maybe it’s a pervasive performance or behavioral issue that you’ve been ignoring for too long. Or perhaps you have a larger organizational culture issue that is bringing the team down because you’re not addressing it. Whatever it is, if you fail to confront it, you run the risk of tearing apart your team. Or worse–you could put yourself out of business.
Take some time today or this week to confront whatever difficult or challenging reality is before you. Then, develop an action plan for how you will address this reality–how you will change it. Then, execute. Take action, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant. And in the end, never lose faith that you will succeed.
When you confront reality, you’re leading well.