Leadership Simplified: Doug Van Dyke

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The Non-Linear Leader Wins!

Volume: January 2015

By Doug Van Dyke, Leadership Simplified, www.leadershipsimplified.com

 

Racquetball is one of my favorite games. Four walls and a ceiling, two players armed with racquets, and a lively blue ball. It sounds so simple. On the surface, it is a simple game that can be learned in five minutes. Within fifteen minutes someone can be introduced to the game of racquetball and be playing and having fun. Nice. As one advances in the game, however, it becomes clear that the game is not so simple. The ball is meant to be hit low, and fast, and it frequently caroms off walls at confounding angles. Players have to react quickly, while simultaneously attempting to hit a winner or keep the ball in play. The points move at a rapid-fire pace and if one is not paying attention, it can be over in a blink. All this is coupled with lots of effort, running, and perspiration.

 

Sometimes due to the angle and velocity of the ball it makes more sense to hit a shot into the side wall, as opposed to the front wall. This angles the ball towards the opposite side wall before hitting the front wall for a winning shot. I call this “going with the shot.” It would be nice if every shot could be directed at the front wall in a nice linear fashion, but players must deal with non-linear situations and respond accordingly. Racquetball is a wicked game in which a variety of shot options present themselves during each stroke. If this sounds complicated, it is. Especially considering that split-second decisions are being made in real-time with the game on the line. Tennis players can sometimes have a tough time with racquetball. Tennis is more of a linear game, so tennis players often attempt to hit every racquetball shot directly at the front wall. They do not go with the shot by using the side walls, the ceiling, and the back wall as shot options. 

 

Business and leadership are a lot like racquetball – they are non-linear. Leaders are continually presented with challenges that can be solved in many ways. It is the charge of the leader to consistently confront challenges and solve problems in the best way possible. Many managers think in a linear fashion. They develop a winning formula and ask for help when their formula does not work for a given situation. Leaders on the other hand go with the shot. They see the business landscape in a less linear fashion. They are continuously thinking strategically and often apply lessons from seemingly unrelated situations to deal with challenges. 

 

Effective leaders, like good racquetball players, are constantly on their toes. They are alert. They pounce on opportunities. They attempt to control the game. When they cannot, they let the game of work take shape – reacting as necessary. When there is chaos or rapid change, great leaders take over, put their team on their back, and lead them to where they need to go.

 

In my opinion, racquetball is one of the best games on the planet. And effective leadership is a noble achievement. No matter what type of team you are leading, nor what type of industry you are in, go with the shot. Think in a non-linear fashion. Take stock of the many leadership tools and techniques you have amassed during your career. Apply those leadership weapons in strategic and creative ways. Be in the shadows when it is appropriate, and boldly step to the forefront when it matters. Go with the shot by ethically doing whatever it takes to win. Lead creatively when your team is presented with difficult situations. The journey on which you lead your team will never be the exact path you expected. It too will be non-linear. Use your skills to the best of your ability. Ensure that the results will be glorious. Make certain that the final result will be……victory!      

 

Doug Van Dyke is a Tampa Bay based executive coach, leadership development expert, and strategic planner. To learn more about leadership development programs, coaching, strategic planning, and consulting services, visit www.leadershipsimplified.com or email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

 

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