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in Life AWARENESS Rss

The “Active” Leader: Harnessing Willpower to Move from Ideas to Action

Posted on : 12-02-2013 | By : Cathy | In : Intention, Productivity, Willpower

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With our constant stream of emails, voicemails, meetings, conference calls, pages, faxes and so on, it is a minor miracle that any of us can accomplish anything. With our Blackberrys surgically implanted into our hands, our time is sliced so thinly that we never have the focused time to develop the big-picture perspective required for an action plan, let alone the time to execute it.

“Daily routines, superficial behaviors, poorly prioritized or unfocused tasks leech managers’ capacities—making unproductive busyness perhaps the most critical behavioral problem” in business today, contend Heike Bruch and Sumantra Ghoshal in their book A Bias for Action.

For so many of us—whether CEOs for major corporations, small business owners or solo-entrepreneurs—there is a fundamental disconnection between knowing what should be done and actually doing it. Calling this disconnection the “knowing-doing gap,” Stanford University researchers Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert Sutton pose the question: “Why does knowledge of what needs to be done frequently fail to result in action or behavior consistent with that knowledge?”

Is there anyone in business today who hasn’t wondered the same thing? 

The answer, argue Bruch and Ghoshal, is both simple and profound. They sum it up with the term “willpower.” The problem they say is not that managers’ time is sliced, but that their intention or “volition” is sliced as well.

Getting things done requires two critical components: energy and focus. And both are at risk in the modern workplace. Building a bias for action in yourself and your organization requires developing and reinforcing the skills to become a “purposeful” or “volitional” manager. These are people who can consistently achieve their objectives by making an unconditional commitment to their goals and then leveraging the power of that intention to overcome the obstacles in their way, whether their own doubts or the bureaucracies within their organizations.

“Purposeful action-taking depends on engaging the power of the will,” according to Burch and Ghoshal. “Not only does willpower galvanize your mental and emotional energy, it also enables you to make your intention happen against the most powerful odds: distractions, temptations to move in a different direction, self-doubt, and negativity. Willpower is the force that strengthens your energy and sharpens your focus throughout the action-taking process.”

My Thursday post will share what Burch and Ghoshal identify as the four key steps that form the basis of successfully taking action. Please check in again!

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