Tag Archive for 'leaders'

Beware of the maxim that can become a lie

The maxim is one of the most interesting of expressions because in its definition we find both truth and consequences.

Webster says a maxim is a “generally accepted truth.” But that makes it sound like we voted on it, doesn’t it? Shouldn’t the truth be beyond debate? Well, that’s why something is a maxim; it’s merely “accepted” as the truth, and therein lie the consequences.

In the world of leadership, one of the best examples of a maxim is “It’s lonely at the top.”

But must it be?

Small business owners know all about being lonely at the top. Even though being atop a small business isn’t very high in the greater marketplace, no Fortune 500 CEO can move the loneliness needle as far as an entrepreneur can. But small business loneliness is a self-imposed exile that we don’t have to accept as the truth.

Maxims are usually harmless, unless they turn out to be untrue. For example, sometimes taking the maxim “It’s lonely at the top” too far can actually manifest as dangerous lies.

CC Photo via Pixabay

CC Photo via Pixabay

Lie #1: I’m supposed to know how to solve this.

Lie #2: I shouldn’t ask for help because I’m the only one with this problem.

Lie #3: Admitting I have a problem makes me appear ignorant and uncompetitive.

Lie #4: I don’t know anyone who can help me.

Lie #5: Even if I found someone to advise me, I can’t afford it.

When you allow any of these lies to become maxims the consequence can be maximum failure.

In the 16th chapter of Proverbs, King Solomon coined a maxim that should be prominently displayed in every business owner’s office: “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with advisors, they succeed.”

Here are some of the places small businesses can get counsel, from free to fee.

No Cost: Local peer-to-peer mastermind groups; Small Business Development Centers (SBDC); SCORE.org.

Zero to $250: Local chamber of commerce; continuing ed classes; industry trade groups.

Budget Required: Consultants; franchise peer groups, like Vistage or The Alternative Board; legal, accounting, etc.

Remember, “It’s lonely at the top” - and the five lies - get maxim status only if you accept them. Since you didn’t get where you are today by being a conformist, why start now?

Listen to the wise man, and seek counsel.  Otherwise you could become painfully acquainted with another maxim in Proverbs 16: “Pride goeth before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall.”

Write this on a rock… Abandon the exile, lose the martyr act and ask for help.

Leaders don’t make excuses – they lead

In October 1066 AD William I, Duke of Normandy, was about to lay claim to England on the field of battle against King Harold II.

As William led his men ashore in southeast England on their way to what was to become the historic Battle of Hastings, legend has it that this man-who-would-be-king rather ignominiously stumbled and fell face-first into the mud.

One of the classic truths about leaders, including once-and-future kings and small business owners, is that stumbling is virtually ordained. So whether the untimely descent is an honest mistake or unfortunate circumstance, the question is not if we will stumble, but how we behave after the fall. One of the great maxims is that adversity doesn’t build character, it reveals it.

Back to our Norman invader: The future king of England demonstrated how leaders often have to think fast in order to snatch victory from potential disaster. Looking up from the mud, seeing “bad omen” written all over the faces of his superstitious men, William stood up, displayed his muddied hands and cried, “By the splendor of God, I have taken possession of my realm; the earth of England is in my two hands.”

So, when you look up from the “mud,” how do you behave? Of course, you could complain about how deep the mud is “How can I grow my business without enough capital?”

Then there’s the ever-handy option of blaming others for the mud, “Yes, ma’am, I know you bought it from us, but that’s a manufacturer’s defect. You’ll have to send it back to them.”

Or you could just blame the mud itself: “How can I possibly compete with the Big Boxes in this economy?”

At least one thing hasn’t changed in a thousand years: There are still plenty of people standing around – employees, customers, etc. – watching us when we stumble. And like William’s men, these latter-day witnesses are also vital to the success of our empires.

The Battle of Hastings arguably changed the course of history. But who knows what the world would look like today if our hero had become known as William the Whiner instead of William the Conqueror?

So, when you fall face-down in the metaphorical mud of your battlefield, your future may well depend upon whether you – like William – stand up, assess the damage, accept the circumstances, claim responsibility, remember that you are a leader on whom many depend, and then drive on to win the day.

It also helps if you can think fast.

Leaders don’t whine, complain or make excuses – they lead.

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I love to talk about leadership on The Small Business Advocate Show with my friend Stephen Baum, former partner with Booz Allen Hamilton, current director of the Point Group Network, and chair of a New York chapter of Vistage International. Stephen was on the show recently to discuss why successful small business CEOs take action, whether to take advantage of opportunities or just to survive. Click here to download or listen.

Check out more great SBA content HERE!

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