Steven R. Covey is the author of ‘the main thing’ quote and several others like it. Covey is recognized as one of Time magazine’s 25 most influential Americans and has written tons of books, most well known perhaps the “Seven Habits of Successful _____ (leaders, business people, parents, even teens)” series. So he outta know the answer to discovering ‘the main thing.’
You would think, if you’re a newly elected official for example, that attending “The Elected Officials Essentials” workshop ($175) in the new year surely would mean you’d come away ready to implement ‘the main thing.’ The workshop promo material states that “the first step you should take as an elected city official is educating yourself to be an effective city leader.” The implication is that by attending this workshop you’ll be transformed into a city leader that’s effective. After all, in your head and under your arm when you leave this intensive day-and-a-half conference (which means overnight accommodations in addition to the $175 registration fee) will be a manual chock-full of “the fundamental tools to help make your city or town run smoothly.”
Is that the goal of leadership? To ensure things ‘run smoothly’? Swimmingly? Don’t rock the boat; certainly don’t get out of the boat and try walking on water or anything; stay in line?
Here’s an idea: stay home and save the tax payers’ money. Order the manual by mail – unless it’s unavailable if you don’t attend the workshop in which case don’t attend, skip the manual and do your own online research. Cost: zero. Benefit: Priceless. Cynical? No. Here’s why.
Reason Number 1: INC magazine once declared that one of the more extravagant wastes of money in America is (drum roll): conferences – the argument being very little of the ideas are ever implemented. The reason the ideas are not implemented is because of Reason Number 2.
Reason Number 2: Here’s the far more important reason to skip the conference (any conference), stay home, make a pot of coffee, throw another log in the fireplace (check the Burn Ban), sit in your straight-backed chair (no recliners allowed) and turn on your computer and your mind.
The main job of a leader is thinking, not doing. “Courage,” wrote Walt Disney, “is the main quality of leadership, no matter where it is exercised.” Courage is not born at a conference. Courage is not a vote by consensus. And courage has nothing to do with committees.
“A committee,” in fact quipped comedian Fred Allen, “is a group of people who individually can do nothing, but who, as a group, can meet and decide that nothing can be done.”
Courage is rather the result of convictions, and convictions are discovered in solitude. Convictions are the main thing upon which everything, and everybody, depends.
‘Without a vision the people perish’ – so goes ancient wisdom. Without a vision-caster, the people become castaways. And a vision-caster requires someone – not a committee – to purposefully engage in the vision-capturing process. So, if your organization, church or community lacks clarity, calling for a meeting of the committee is not the priority. You are. To get the group you lead somewhere, you gotta get yourself somewhere – a place that’s quiet, uninterrupted, a retreat to which you return often (daily) – and knock it out – the vision. Knock off the busy-ness and knock out the business to which you’re called: vision-casting, born of your convictions.