Client Spotlight: Potholes and Roses
At the risk of totally dating myself, Lynn Anderson once had a hit song with the lyric, “I beg your pardon, I never promised you a rose garden.” That could be the anthem for many leaders. Most leaders enter organizations thinking that, once we get everything “in place”, there will be far more roses and sunshine than anything else. And then, reality sets in. Leaders are less important when the roses are in bloom. It’s when a not for profit organization hits the potholes that a leader’s skills undoubtedly shine.
Potholes — those unexpected jolts that are at times impossible to avoid — are a shock to the system. Your staff and volunteers look to the person whose hand is on the wheel to keep them on course and moving forward. How you deal with the potholes determines whether you’ll have the time and energy to plant roses, or if you’ll merely bounce from one jolting experience to another. The potholes are where leadership truly happens.
Author Max DePree says that, “a place of realized potential offers the gift of challenging work.” It’s all about the process, which can be painful, messy and loaded with uncertain tasks, but working through the tough stuff makes you a better leader. We assume that to be a great leader one must already know how to get out of tough spots. Instead, it’s the act of finding your way out of the potholes that allow you, in Max DePree’s words, to realize your potential. And that’s where the roses are.
So, what does that mean for your not for profit? Well, if you find your organization encountering a pothole, take heart. If you keep striving toward your mission, you’re on the way to realizing your full potential. Leadership isn’t easy, and you won’t have all the answers. Over time, some answers will become easier, but the questions will become harder too.
When you celebrate the leadership journey, working hard for a mission in which you truly believe, that’s when the roses start to appear. And those roses are more beautiful because of the struggle you went through to find them. Down the road, there will be more potholes which simply means you’re continuing to move forward.
Lynn Anderson had it right. Not for profit leaders aren’t promised a rose garden. But the roses they do find, just on the other side of the potholes, are the sweetest roses of all.
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