Do You Lead Like a Groundhog?

Originally published for The Callan Course

Groundhog Day is traditionally thought to be a Pennsylvania German celebration whereby a groundhog predicts the remaining duration of winter. Celebrated on February 2nd every year, if the groundhog emerges and sees his shadow, he scurries back into his hole, signaling another 6 weeks of winter. Conversely, if he doesn’t see his shadow and emerges from the burrow, spring will come early.

Are you leading like a groundhog? Are you hiding from your own shadow, fearing more winter-like tough times and only coming out when it looks like the coast is clear? You’ve earned this position of leadership and those around you will follow your lead. If you choose to bury your head and weather the storm, so will they. How can we expect our employees to be creative, think up new solutions, or suggest alternatives if we aren’t actively doing the same?

We need to stop hiding from the challenges and face them head on. If we all sit back and wait for the seas to calm, innovation will move at a snail’s pace. As a leader, you need to take the helm of the ship and guide your organization in the direction you want it to go. Most of us have endured numerous trials and tribulations over the years. That’s just part of the journey. It’s how we deal with those challenges and overcome them that help to define who we become as leaders and plot the path of our organizations. The satisfaction and transformation that comes from overcoming the obstacles in our way, empowers us to succeed in ways we can’t necessarily imagine. Many of the greatest leaders and innovators have proven this: Martin Luther King, Jr., Gandhi, Margaret Thatcher, Steve Jobs, Walt Disney, Mother Teresa, or Mark Zuckerberg. If Mark Zuckerberg had hid from his proverbial shadow, we probably wouldn’t have Facebook today. While you may not agree completely with their political approach or management styles, you can see how their determination overcame challenges, resistance, and tough times to successfully move their organizations beyond the norm and to the forefront of change or innovation. Growth, success, and innovation all depend on taking chances, risking failure, and overcoming the obstacles that we fear. So, while we have to challenge these obstacles, we need not do so blindly. Devise a plan, involve your team, and execute your strategy.

In all reality, since 1887, Punxsutawney Phil’s weather predictions have only been correct 39% of the time. So while it’s a fun tradition, don’t let stories cloud your leadership expertise. Be realistic, not superstitious. Lead your team and your organization based on facts and strategy while adhering to your organization’s goals and ethos. Let’s stop acting like groundhogs and confront that shadow. When all is said and done, that obstacle you face may end up being as fleeting as a shadow after all.

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