What does it mean to be industrious? Someone who is industrious works energetically, devotedly, and diligently. The industrious leader is resourceful in overcoming obstacles by leveraging his or her own leadership skills.
I remember this aspect of my military training. We used to say that for every task, there was the right way, the wrong way, and the Army way. This meant that you might be able to optimize something for yourself and make it “right”, but that would create a custom solution that might be difficult to replicate or not even apply on a mass scale.
Then there was the wrong way, which encompassed the collection of options that have been proven to fail and therefore should not be attempted. Many of the most common pitfalls were spelled out in the manuals as things you should absolutely not do.
Finally, we had the Army way. This was the guidance that we saw in the manuals, which was most often thorough, clear, and written for the most basic comprehension. The Army has a manual for just about everything. Despite these useful guides, we were still taught and encouraged to be industrious. The manuals covered all the basic skills and understanding of your tools, weapons, and policy, but they could not possibly cover every conceivable situation a leader might encounter in a combat situation.
Industriousness is what filled in the gaps. That’s where a diligent leader explores new, creative ways to combine the guidance in the manuals with his intuition and experience to overcome specific obstacles of unique situations. That’s the very definition of an industrious leader that I cover in my book, 4 Power Leadership, Your Pathway to Leadership Success.
Like many aspects of leadership, industriousness is an attitude. It’s a behavioral characteristic that can be cultivated and nurtured into a strength. Like most qualities, the correct balance is required. Excessive self-reliance and self-sufficiency can create isolation. Isolation is a far less productive and risky state than coordinated teamwork.
Conversely, lack of industriousness gives rise to helplessness and creates a situation where “If it’s not in the manual, I don’t know what to do.” This is the response of the typical strictly by-the-book, unimaginative people we too often find in leadership positions. When presented with an obstacle, they simply wring their hands and do nothing. They either enter a procrastination loop over difficult decisions or completely abandon any thought of moving forward. Leaders who lack industriousness are often reticent in seeking help for fear of revealing their weaknesses. This the mindset of an insecure person that severely limits personal growth.
What can you do to flex your industriousness “muscles?” Whenever, you stretch outside your comfort zone to resolve a situation that’s not in “the book,” you learn problem-solving. Manage risk by consulting mentors who have experience in a broad array of situations. Do not hesitate to explore solutions by soliciting the opinions of team members.
Brainstorming answers is not a sign of weakness. It’s a leadership skill that actually pulls your team together by involving them in solutions as opposed to you having to dictate orders. Remember that just because you’re in a leadership position, you’re not automatically required to have all the answers. Your skill is your drive and ability to unite people behind a common goal. That’s why leaders get the big bucks—not for having all the answers every time. Further, team brainstorming has been shown to most often produce better answers than a lone wolf working a problem. The industrious leader knows this.
As a leader, you must refuse to accept the status-quo of a problem situation. If you know what the outcome must be to achieve satisfactory resolution, encourage those around you to start with the result that’s needed and then determine the best way to arrive at the optimal destination.
When I was a vice-president in a Fortune 100 company, I used that tactic all the time. I would pull teams of specialists together and explain where we needed to go. When obstacles stood in our way, I would tell them, “We need to accomplish X, so let’s start with yes and figure out how.”
I never accepted “Sorry we can’t do that.” as a valid answer. Most of the time this was a work management tactic employed by inundated individuals. It was easier for them to say no than to start working on a difficult problem.
Among the many leadership qualities that are highly valued by employers, industriousness is one of the most valuable. Industriousness separates those who get things done from those who need to be told what to do. The 4 Power Leader is an industrious leader. When a problem pops up, say, “I can handle that.” You too can become an industrious leader.
Lead well and win!™