The Columbus Day is celebrated every year to honor the man who led the expedition that discovered the Americas. Where would we be without his efforts? Christopher Columbus demonstrated several remarkable traits that are just as applicable today as lessons in business and leadership effectiveness as they were more than five centuries ago.
Here are 5 leadership lessons from Columbus and thoughts on how to apply them to your business:
1. Have a vision. If Columbus was like everyone else in believing that the world was flat, they’d still be traveling to Asia over land and we’d be who knows where. He gave thoughtful consideration to the situation and proposed an alternative way to trade more efficiently with merchants in the Far East. He didn’t just explore for glory – surely there was profit in mind to fuel his courage.
If you’re to be an effective leader, you have to thoroughly understand your business, including the environment in which you operate and challenges that can stand in your way. Good leaders don’t think “I hope we’re still doing the same thing in the same way 5 years from now.” Rather, they challenge conventional wisdom and seek out new, better, different ways of doing things, which will result in a more profitable business.
2. Be willing to take risks. The voyage that Columbus led to America was considered crazy by many. The notion that the world wasn’t flat, but in fact round, was radical. Columbus put his life and reputation on the line by taking what he considered to be a calculated risk that was ultimately successful. Columbus went against popular belief, providing a great example of “thinking outside the box,” especially when it wasn’t popular to do so.
In your company, is the world “flat,” or are you open to new ways of thinking? Are you willing to risk failure(s) on your way to success? Many people, processes, and functions get stuck in a rut, mindlessly following “the way we do things” rather than trying to make improvements. Have standards, but be open to suggestions for ways to notch up your game or even make radical changes to remain productive, relevant to consumers, and competitive.
3. Be persistent and resilient. When trying to secure venture capital to fund his voyage, he was rejected until he was able to convince Spain’s Queen Isabella to back him. Columbus had an idea and didn’t give up on it. He created his marketing pitch and refined it as he told the story trying to build his crew and secure funding. What if he had given up after being rejected by his own country? The world might look very different today.
Obviously you need to use common sense and discretion when seeking support for your business idea or venture, whether from internal leaders or external investors. Know your organizational dynamics and power structure as well as whose support to enlist who can help you toward your goal.
4. Be flexible and able to adapt. The adventurers were looking for a faster route to Asia, and ultimately failed in that mission. They could have turned back to Europe, or sailed on to try to get back on their intended course. But instead they realized the potential of their discovery, and turned their failure into a success.
In your work, you set out to achieve specific goals and objectives. When things don’t go as planned, evaluate the results and circumstances that lead to them to see if you can possibly salvage the experience and turn it into a success.
5. Be a leader. Imagine what it was like to be a member of Columbus’s crew on those first voyages. He lead scores of men on a treacherous journey into the unknown. There’s no doubt that Columbus must have been an effective leader – perhaps forceful, perhaps inspirational, and certainly charismatic – to achieve what he and his crew did.
When faced with challenging circumstances, do you stand tall to lead your team to success, or cower and shrink under pressure? Do you motivate your people to perform by earning their respect, or by spreading fear and flexing your authority?
True, the discovery of the Americas forever changed the lives and cultures of the indigenous peoples, but that was not Columbus’s intent. There is still room to honor his achievements and apply leadership lessons to your business.
Do you have a Columbus in your company? Have there been occasions when you could have persevered the way Columbus and his crew did in order to affect a positive outcome? Are you willing to turn your failures into successes?
Source: Profiles International
Read more about how to become a more successful and charismatic leader in Leadership Charisma. You can download chapter one free here.