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One Vital Leadership Trait: Owning The Gap

Type “Leadership Development” into Google, and you’ll have almost 35 million pages to research. Narrowing the search to Leadership Development books on Amazon will leave you only 22,000 books to choose from. I have read a few of them, and most offer good insights into what it takes to lead well. Yet there is one characteristic that in my near 3 decades of working with people that I have found to be essential for effective and healthy leadership. Without it, your leadership will eventually falter. That trait is owning your gap.

Victor Frankl was a Jewish psychiatrist that had to endure the horrors of the holocaust. His well-read book “Man’s Search for Meaning” chronicles his experiences in the death camps and his quest for spiritual survival in the face of circumstances around him. He writes:

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”

Very few of us will have to experience the horrors that Dr. Frankl did. We would do well to understand the power of his words.

Every day we face circumstances outside of our control that require a response. Too often we feel like we don’t have a choice in the responses we make. “He made me feel…, When she did this I was so….,” are common statements which seem to indicate they had no choice but to respond the way they did. This lack of awareness of the choices we make will eventually undermine the impact of our leadership.

We always have a choice. The Gap is that space between the circumstances we face and our response to it. It doesn’t matter if it’s a frustrating employee, colleague, or friend. Regardless of the situation, we still choose our response. We may encounter a devastating illness, an unforeseen change in the markets, the loss of a close friend, or the betrayal of an employee or spouse. When we don’t own our Gap, we give away our freedom. And when we give away our freedom, we lose our power and stop growing. We’ll start spinning in the frustration of our circumstances, giving up the responsibility we have to move ourselves forward. But we can choose our own way, regardless of the circumstances we face.

This one choice can change your life and is key to any significant growth: Own everything. Recognize the choices you make. In that recognition is power, and in that power is your influence.

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”

Dr. Victor Frankl, 1905–1997


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