A man and his wife were taking a lazy Sunday afternoon drive through the country enjoying the sights, sounds, and smells of the rural community. As they slowly navigated the narrow two-lane road, large hardwood trees reached for the sky and offered shade from the hot sun above, broad pastures and farmland extended as far as the eye could see, and picturesque oak barns dotted the landscape.
On the side of one of the barns, a series of targets was painted. There must have been a couple of dozen little red, yellow, and blue targets. In the center of each one was an arrow, a perfect bullseye. There were no other holes in the target; just one solitary bullseye.
The man slowed their car to get a better look. “That’s remarkable,” the man said to his wife.
“Maybe he was in the Olympics,” she replied.
Just then a little boy, perhaps eight or nine years old, opened the door of the white farmhouse nearby. He waved from the porch.
Curious, the man pulled into to gravel driveway and stopped the car.
“That’s some shooting,” the man said nodding toward the barn.
“Eh, it’s nothing really,” the boy demurred.
Thinking the boy jealous of his older brother, the man said “Well, I guess whoever shot those arrows must be pretty pleased with it.”
“Not especially,” the boy replied.
“Why would you say,” the wife asked.
“Those are my arrows,” the boy shrugged.
The man and wife glanced at one another. “Yours,” the both said skeptically.
“Sure. Want to see me shoot another one?”
Before they could answer, the boy disappeared into his house and returned a moment later with a bow, an arrow, a paint brush, and three small cans of paint – one red, one blue, and one yellow. They followed the boy to the barn.
The boy set his gear down about fifty feet from the barn, picked up his bow and notched an arrow. In one fluid motion, he slowly raised the bow, pulled the string back, and steadied his aim. A moment later the arrow released into the air and stuck with a dull thud into the side of the barn.
The boy carefully laid the bow down, picked up the paintbrush and paint cans, walked to the barn, and started painting a target around the arrow.
To Succeed, You Must Define Success
Unfortunately, many people are like the little boy in the story. They attempt to define success after the fact. They go through business or life somewhat aimlessly, being carried by the wind and whichever way it happens to be blowing at the moment. Then they try to make the best of it afterward, telling themselves and others that this is what they really wanted all along.
As leaders, our teams at work and our families at home, depend on us. It is our responsibility to define what success looks like. What is strategically important to us? Where should we spend our time and our resources? Where do we see ourselves in the future? More importantly, at our core, who are we and how do we see ourselves.
Tactically, what do we want to accomplish in the next week, in the next three months, in the next three years? How will we know that we’re making progress toward that goal? How will we know when we’ve achieved it?
Leaders must earn their leadership every day. Part of that is painting a vibrant picture of what success looks like and then creating an environment to accomplish it.
Are you earning your leadership?