“Removing what does not matter is the first step in figuring out what does.” This statement sums up one of the key indicators to sustainable and effective leadership as taught in the book The Leader’s Climb: A Business Tale of Rising to the New Leadership Challenge by Bob Parsanko and Paul Heagen.
The Leader’s Climb tells the story of how to lead more effectively and how to make a long-term, lasting contribution. Adam, the main character in the story, had been CEO of his company for about three years. He finds himself stuck in several areas of his life. The story of Adam is told as a “business fable” in a way that makes the principles taught come to life. The story weaves the pressure he feels from the board together with a difficult project he’s doing on his home and his love for rock climbing to tell a real-life story that’s easy to internalize.
Often leaders get to a point where they realize something is “off” between their sense of what they thought executive leadership would be and what it is turning out to be. This struggle—this path to decline—has a pattern:
Going to fast: Relying too heavily on what we know rather than slowing down and becoming genuinely curious about what we don’t know.
Fighting too much: Spending too much time and energy denying current realities.
Forcing too many decisions: Wasting energy and goodwill on winning at all costs, forcing other people’s hands or clawing for the edge.
The authors give three steps that reverse the decline and mark a new path toward a more sustainable and effective model of leadership and growth in today’s world:
1. More Awareness: Awareness is more than just knowing you have blind spots; it’s having the patience and discipline to slow down and open yourself up to what you do not know or have not yet experienced. Slow down, step back, and take a fresh look at your situation from a range of perspectives.
2. More Acceptance: It is human nature to overlook obstacles that stand in our path or to fight like mad to overwhelm them. Acceptance is the mature and reasoned embrace of our current realities. The forces we fight may actually help us to achieve some greater accomplishment.
3. More Abundance: By creating an abundance of choices, we open ourselves up to better decisions. It takes a different kind of leader to keep many paths open prior to reaching that ultimate point of decision.
The Leader’s Climb provides key principles for leaders, and the story is enjoyable and informative.
The Product Management Perspective: The point of creating abundance is important for product managers. It’s easy to fall into the trap of feeling like you have all the answers. To the extent you are willing to consider all options from the different stake holders, the better your products will turn out.