It's one of the more nagging and haunting questions of our lives:
Am I settling?
We think settling is bad. When football teams are in the red zone and can't score a touchdown, they "settle" for a field goal. If we can't find the man of our dreams, we'll settle for one that's close. That's the person we're supposed to "settle down" with, but maybe this generation won't be doing that.
The urge to settle is overwhelming. As long as we're close, we think, it's good enough. We make compromises, accept what's given to us, and live to fight another day. We admire the comfort and calm that settling brings, and we go about our business.
But, this isn't what leaders do. Leaders don't settle.
Refusing to settle and resisting the urge to compromise is uncomfortable. But, as we all know, being uncomfortable is what can make us great leaders, so if we want to rise to the top, we have to resist the urge to settle.
Maybe it's letting your team know that a few hours of overtime is needed to make the project really succeed, and you'll lead by example by footing the bill for late night pizza. Maybe you'll plead with your boss to redesign the brochure because a better look just might lead to a few more prospects. Maybe you will discover it's time to go out on your own as an entrepreneur because you no longer want to settle for the 9-to-5 you're accustomed to.
In the nonprofit world specifically, settling can come easy. As long as the budget has been met, you'll be back again tomorrow, fighting the good fight. As long as you have just enough volunteers, you'll pull off the dinner or the 5k, and you'll be back to do it again next year. As long as you have just enough people visit your booth at the festival, you'll make sure to get a few more folks interested.
But just enough shouldn't cut it. The status quo sucks, so it's time we all rose to the challenge, set a BHAG, and try just once to knock something out of the park. To stick with the baseball analogy, putting the ball in play and reaching on an error is fine, but no one made it to Cooperstown because they got lucky.
You will rise to the top of your industry by never giving in, by running hard, and by refusing to settle. Choose your battles wisely, but make sure to win them because you worked harder and better than the other guy - not because he got lazy.
On Wednesday, Tera Wozniak Qualls will be discussing the uncomfortableness that comes from refusing to settle. Click here to see the rest of what Tera and I will be chatting about this month. In the meantime, let us know how you’ve built your leadership skills through uncomfortable situations. Use #devleadership on Twitter and Facebook or comment on this blog to let us know your story.