Creating, maintaining and maximizing your personal/leadership margin, or what Dr. Richard Swenson, M.D. calls ”the space between our load and our limits,” is the foundation of effective decision making and leadership. As we define, design and build our leadership margin, we face a series of decisions. What habits, behaviors, and connections will remain in our lives? What do we eliminate? What impact do these decisions have on our workplaces, our homes and our communities?
Be sure to read Creating Your Leadership Margin.
As you think about this task, your head may spin with the complexity and potential outcomes. Even the small steps for developing leadership margin begin to look like a daunting climb. Is there a way to simplify the process to the basics? Is there a guiding question a leader can use to start the process and model it?
In my experience consulting with leaders in both academia and industry, the answer has varied but centers on a common theme. Leadership margin is created from decisions based on your personal experiences (upbringing, education, work history, etc.) combined with a balance of your current circumstances and your vision for the future. Andy Stanley simply states this concept in his book “The Best Question Ever”—Given the inputs of my personal history, current circumstances and vision for the future, what is the wise thing to do?
Wisdom is defined as the quality of having experience, knowledge, and good judgment. This “best” question, when applied to decision making, mirrors the textbook definition and enables effective decision making and the creation of margin. Think of the difference in your life had you applied this question when deciding on accepting a promotion or new job, when deciding where to become involved in the community, when deciding how you act while “on the road,” or deciding how connected to be. Answering this question with an honest, reflective and humble assessment gives leaders a simple tool to create, maintain and maximize their margin and provide experiential leadership to all they impact. Start now, if you wait until you are ready you’ll be waiting the rest of your life.
What will you do today to make this happen?
For similar articles, check out Performance Thinking with Dan Sheedy.