Feb 252013 0 Responses

How Down Syndrome Taught Me to look Beyond the Next Quarter

Nothing has taught me as much about leadership as parenting a child with special needs. Every Monday I write about leadership and most of these lessons have been learned from my experience with my daughter with Down syndrome. This is one of those lessons.


Leadership is most often the exact opposite of what we desire.

We want the smallest amount of effort with the greatest amount of impact over the shortest period of time. We want to do little and get much.

Leadership is often the opposite. It requires a great deal of effort with seemingly little impact over a long period of time.

Parenting a special needs child requires the long perspective. Life cannot be defined by tomorrow’s test or yesterday’s milestone. It’s about slow, steady progress over a lifetime. Parenting is about the long haul.

Shouldn’t leadership be about the same?

In a world where the next fiscal quarter seems too long for measurement, we should forget the quarter and shoot for the decade. This world needs less quick-change artist and more lifetime leaders. While some changes can happen quickly, most meaningful change comes slowly, methodically. The challenge of leadership is to appease the short term shareholders (so we may keep our jobs), but to always focus on long term success (so our jobs will have been worth keeping). 

Leadership should be more about the trajectory of our lives, companies, schools, and programs. We should be more focused on the direction in which we are encouraging others to go rather than the outcome of today’s game or tomorrow’s numbers. Nick Saban is right when he says games are won by winning every play, but we cannot confuse the immediate situation for the ultimate game. When we do, small victories and small losses will play too much of a defining role in who we are. If our goal in longevity, neither a loss or a victory today will do too much to define what we will do, or be, tomorrow.

Parenting is for the long haul, so is pastoring a church, coaching a team, or leading an organization. Today’s challenges are important, but they should not define us. Whether we win or lose today, influences tomorrow, but will not be the final word on tomorrow.

How does parenting for the long haul change how you view your child’s playing time, test score, or poor choice?

How does leading for the long haul change how you view today’s employee review, urgent memo, or stressful meeting?

Leaders are in it for the long haul.

It’s Monday, go lead.




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