“Yeah, management has to stop pretending to be the Great Protector, but the rest of us have to stop askin’ and expectin’ them to be.”
The Radical Leap, page 91
In the words of international best seller, Tom Peters, “I am an unabashed Farber fan!“. If you’ve read my articles on The Radical Edge, and Greater Than Yourself, you already know that. Author Steve Farber writes with a wit, edge and lively pace that is all too rare in business books these days. In a word, the man is real. In The Radical Leap – his first foray into the world of business books – Farber decidedly “shook things up”, choosing to weave his valuable, practical business advice into an engaging story in which he plays one of the lead characters.
The Radical Leap (“LEAP” being an acronym for Love, Energy, Audacity and Proof) is the tale of Farber’s engagement with three unusual characters who, through story and interaction, teach him the importance of reconnecting with your passion for what you do… and how profound an impact that reconnection can have on others.
Turns out…. we’re all human.
“Too many businesspeople – myself included, as Edg had pointed out – wanted to be invincible. They confused credibility with perfection and, therefore, would never dream of showing their scars and foibles to their employees.”
The Radical Leap, page 24
Yes, “LEAP” is an acronym, but it’s also a lesson in and of itself. Extreme Leadership (the only kind that matters these days) is about putting yourself out there. It’s about committing to a mission with passion and fervour.
Too many “leaders” these days (and Farber spends some time discussing the woeful decline of the impact of the word “leadership” as it becomes just another buzzword) are polished to a point of ineffectiveness. You’ve seen these people – perfect hair, perfect teeth, perfect smile, and the ability to run a thirty minute press conference without actually saying anything meaningful. So many people in senior roles have become so good at creating an aura of perfection that the thought of being seen as human terrifies them. Sure, they wouldn’t word it that way, but what else would you call it when someone spends more time crafting 15 second sound bites than they do passionately pursuing their purpose?
These people forget that we don’t follow “suits and smiles”. True leaders understand that leading by example – admitting that they’re human, prone to mistakes and fears, yet choosing to move forward anyway – is what inspires the troops. Having a purpose – a passion and a vision – and committing to realizing that vision, is what gets people on board. One of the best ways to do that, Farber illustrates, is to embrace our OS!Ms: Our “Oh Shit! Moments”. (I told you he was edgy)
So what’s an OS!M? It’s the feeling you have as the rollercoaster crests the top of the hill and you look down at the track in front of you. It’s the sensation as you lean in for your first kiss. It’s the point at which you commit – when there’s no turning back – and you leap into the future with passion and purpose. And it’s as important in business as it is in the rest of your life. OS!Ms in business are when you stick your neck out for what you believe in. The polished people avoid OS!Ms. OS!Ms are messy; raw. There’s no guarantee of success. Leaders understand that there’s a power to that rawness… provided it’s used correctly.
Getting your OS!M’s out in the open
“When you have your OS!M publicly, for everyone to see, you send a message that says we should all be doing this.”
The Radical Leap, page 22
If OS!Ms are good, public OS!Ms are better. Engaging regularly in that which stretches you is a positive exercise for you, but finding opportunities to share that stretch with your team will begin to develop a culture that encourages people to commit, and not to wait until things are perfect before doing so.
As a leader, if you’re always looking for the exit doors, or calculating the “odds” in a situation, how can you possibly expect your team to be committed to the goals? Public OS!Ms are opportunities for you to demonstrate to your team that passion and commitment are more important than perfection.
Don’t force it, but look for those opportunities to share more of yourself. When you start feeling that fear bubbling up at the thought of being quite that honest… that’s your OS!M. Take it. (but read the next GEM first)
Technique is a bad word
“I had been lulled into thinking of this man as just a garden-loving, water-sipping, trailer-living, mellow and retiring Pops. But he wasn’t. He was an empire builder. And, empires weren’t built on a bunch of mamby-pamby ‘techniques.'”
The Radical Leap, page 56
If you start thinking of Public OS!Ms as a great “motivation tactic”, you’re sunk. (And you should really read The Radical Leap, because you’re missing the point). OS!Ms, truly, are less about what you say, and more about how you say it. It’s about stripping away ulterior motives, “spin”, posturing or ego, and connecting with who you are, and what you believe at your core. Don’t think of it as a “technique” or “tactic”, but rather as a re-centering of you and your authentic self.
The very concept of OS!Ms directly contradicts the notion of “polish”. Yes, you should be prepared. Yes, you can work on delivery and timing. And there are appropriate and inappropriate occasions for OS!Ms. But when it does come time for you to fess up and admit that you’re human, don’t think of it as a “technique”. Instead, connect with the moment and speak from the heart.
I think the reason I have such a warm place in my heart for Farber’s books is as much structure as it is content. The content’s great, but it’s the characters, the story and the focus of each book that keeps me coming back for more. The Radical Leap is a fun read, highly impactful, and a great reminder that leadership doesn’t have to be complicated, but it does have to be authentic.