[Leaders have] the habit of reaching decisions promptly, and of changing these decisions slowly, if and when they [are] changed. — Napoleon Hill, Think and Grow Rich
Like many people who are interested in personal development and making money, I have become a fan of Napoleon Hill and his classic self-help book, Think and Grow Rich, published way back in 1937.
I first read Think and Grow Rich about 20 years ago. A lot of it honestly just went right over my head. Plus, I wasn’t really that open-minded about the metaphysical aspects of Napoleon Hill’s philosophy and related New Thought teachings. So I didn’t get much out of it back then and eventually donated it.
But that was then.
After discovering Bob Proctor’s videos recently and hearing him gush about how this book transformed his life, I bought another copy earlier this year and read through it in a few weeks. I’m currently about halfway through reading it for the third time. And I’m loving just about every page of it!
But Chapter 8, titled, “Decision: The Mastery of Procrastination – The Seventh Step Toward Riches,” immediately made a big impression on me. And the passage quoted at the beginning of this blog post really stuck out.
In fact, personal development pioneer Earl Nightingale focused in on that quote as one of the key concepts of this chapter in his condensed recording of Think and Grow Rich.
Making Decisions Is an Essential Leadership Skill
Many of the ideas in Think and Grow Rich aren’t just useful for building wealth. They can also be helpful in many other areas of life too. And this idea of being decisive definitely has a lot of value for improving several areas of your life.
As I read this chapter, I am reminded of three specific times in my 20s and 30s where taking initiative and being decisive not only opened up leadership opportunities for me, but enabled me to do a good job as a leader once I was in.
I’m grateful for these experiences where I was able to contribute to others. And I think I learned a lot and grew a lot during these chapters of my life.
1. When I Was a Worship Leader at Church
In my late teens and early twenties, I was seriously into being a christian, devouring my Bible and doing church. My worldview has shifted quite a bit over the last couple decades, but back then, that was my whole life.
It was 1995.
I had recently relocated to Hawaii and started going to a small non-denominational church. Back in California, I had enjoyed playing acoustic guitar and singing at Bible studies and stuff, and I already knew many of the songs they liked at this church. So I asked about joining the praise and worship band.
It was a pretty laid back church, so I was up there on stage with my guitar the following Sunday.
Well, a few weeks or months in, the worship leader was going away on a trip, so I ended up filling in for a week or maybe a few weeks (I forget exactly).
The worship leader was a really cool guy, and we instantly got along great. He was a skilled musician, and I think his heart was totally in the right place. But the way he lead the band practices was really…um…democratic. We’d all show up for practice, and he’d be like, “Okay guys, what songs do you want to sing this Sunday?”
So we’d kick some ideas around for awhile, and then we’d finally play through some songs. It was really disorganized, and there was a lot of confusion about the songs themselves, like:
- when and how to do transitions
- how long the intro would be
- when exactly to stop the song, etc.
Plus, there was a lot of small talk before we even started practicing the first song. Practices would take forever.
I didn’t mind it, myself. I was young and single and all about Jesus and fellowship and all that, right? So I could do this all night long. It was as much a social time to me as it was music practice.
But the others came to practice straight from working at their jobs all day. And some had kids at home and still had to go make dinner and help with homework or whatever. So long practices every week were a bit of a drain on them.
So when it was my turn to fill in as worship leader, I just did things my way. Everyone showed up, and I already had the songs picked out. I had the music sheets arranged and photocopied for everyone, and we were ready to go.
“Okay, here’s how we’re doing it, folks. Everyone follow me. 1-2-3-4…”
- 4-chord intro
- 1st verse
- 2nd verse
- 4-chord outro
- stop (or transition right into the next song in the same key without missing a beat)
Practice was over in half the time.
Zero confusion. Zero frustration. And you could see it on everyone’s faces – this was refreshing.
And everything went smoothly on Sunday too.
Well, after the worship leader got back, I guess people had been talking. Because it wasn’t too much longer after that when the pastor had me officially take over as the new worship leader.
I didn’t really know what all was going on, and it wasn’t my decision. But apparently there was some drama behind the scenes. The worship leader felt kinda thrown under the bus, and I don’t blame him. Looking back, I see no reason why he needed to be replaced. Unless there was more going on that I wasn’t aware of that somehow disqualified him for leadership?
Idk, but it seems to me that this would have been a good opportunity for the pastor to mentor the old worship leader and give him some guidance instead of just giving him the boot.
Anyway, I guess the leaders of the church could have handled it a lot better. But I ended up being the worship leader there for a couple years before I decided to pass the torch.
Back then, I figured that the other guy and I just had different leadership styles, and my way meshed better with what the other band members wanted.
But as I look back now, I realize that it was more than that.
As worship leaders, we were both open to input from the other members of the worship team, but he was so open to suggestions that it seemed like he never made any decisions himself without getting a consensus.
That’s very generous, and it can be a good approach in some situations. But overall it created more frustration than harmony.
That’s not leadership.
I know he was just being nice and all, but it was actually kind of frustrating. The band was looking to their leader for leadership. They wanted and needed a leader who could make decisions, stick with the plan and keep everyone together on the same page.A wishy-washy leader who can't make decisions or who constantly changes their mind to please others will end up being replaced by someone else who can make decisions promptly and who will stay the course. Click To Tweet
2. When I Was a Den Leader and Cubmaster in Cub Scouts
Fast-forward almost a decade.
Now I’m married, I’m a dad, and our older son is starting his second year in Cub Scouts. The kids are organized by age into five dens (small groups of maybe 4-8 kids) and the pack (the main group of all five dens, 20-40 kids total).
Our den leader announces that he’s moving up to become the new pack leader, and so we need someone to volunteer to be the new den leader.
It’s not that big of a deal, but it is a commitment. You gotta learn some stuff. You gotta put in some hours. You organize the activities for your weekly den meetings. And you coordinate with the other dens for the monthly pack meeting and larger group activities. Plus, you gotta wear that damn neckerchief. Ugh.
One of the parents needed to make a decision, step up and keep this den running smoothly.
So I did it. (Okay…shhh…my wife helped A LOT too).
And then three or four years later (I forget) their family moved out of state. So the pack needed a new pack leader (Cubmaster) again for the following year.
Decision time. Now one of the den leaders needs to make a decision, step up and lead the whole pack.
Again, I did it (sshhhh…my wife helped A WHOLE, HOLE, HOEL LOT – but also me!).
We had a lot of fun memories during our Cub Scout years. And there were some dramas too, because, you know…people. But again, it was a valuable growth experience. And it was a lot of fun to contribute to our little community of families and give our kids something productive and fun to do on the weekends and after school.
When it comes to developing leadership skills, there’s no substitute for personal experience. You just gotta make the decision, get in there, figure it out and do it. Launch first, then correct your course as you go.
3. When I Was Promoted to Supervisor at My Job
A year or two later, I got a job working at a gym. I worked in the kids club, so I was basically just a babysitter.
But at this point in my life, I was motivated to accomplish a little more than just scraping by like I had been to that point.
I took this entry-level job, but from my very first day, I was determined to get promoted and start building a career. I didn’t know how or when it would happen, but in my mind the decision was made. In my mind, I was already the supervisor.
So I took some initiative.
- I showed up early for every shift
- I did my job to the best of my ability
- I never complained
- I did the work that nobody else wanted to do
- I asked for longer hours and quickly volunteered to cover shifts for others
- I even asked if our other gyms in the area had available shifts
- I always asked to take on more responsibilities than my current position required
- I helped out in any way I could and never mumbled the words, “that’s not my job”
About a month later, the current kids club supervisor transferred to another position within the company. It was a no-brainer. After only a month at this job, I was promoted to take his place as the new supervisor. And I did a pretty good job.
Leadership isn’t easy.
I made plenty of mistakes in my early leadership roles and made some lame decisions that make me cringe when I think back on them. And in some cases, I think more guidance from the leaders above me could have really helped too.
But you know, as time has passed, I don’t really regret the fact that I made some bad decisions anymore. It’s all just part of the process. It’s a natural part of leadership.
I was young and immature, but I stepped up.
I did my best.
And over time I looked back and learned from both my successes and my failures.
Every leader – even the best of them – makes mistakes from time to time.
But when you’re in a position of leadership, and people are looking to you for direction, you can’t just sit there and be afraid to make the wrong call. Otherwise, your ability to lead will be severely diminished.
Good leaders step up and make informed decisions quickly. And then they follow through, carefully adjusting course if needed. But if you hesitate too much out of fear of being wrong, you’ll never make a decision. And being unable to make a decision – or flip-flopping on every decision you make – is often worse than making an imperfect decision in the first place.
A wishy-washy leader who can’t make decisions or who constantly changes their mind to please others will end up being replaced by someone else who can make decisions promptly and who will stay the course.
So what about you?
What kind of leadership roles have you had so far in your life?
How has decisiveness helped you grow as a leader or as a person?
(art by Chris Desatoff)