“Kamikaze pilots are only useful if they are committed to their mission. Leaders are the same way. You cannot have involvement without committment and be effective. It goes with the territory.”
Dr. Tim Elmore
I love the story of the WWII Japanese kamikaze pilot who was interviewed by a local news reporter upon returning from his 50th mission. The reporter noted that the kamikaze pilot was a contradiction in terms. After all, how could someone be a kamikaze pilot and still be alive after 50 missions? Aren’t they supposed to give their life in the process of fighting the enemy? Yet, there he stood, alive and well.
“Here’s the reality,” the kamikaze pilot responded. “I am very involved in what I do. Not very committed, mind you, but very involved.”
I can’t help but chuckle every time I think about this story As an aviator myself, I am keenly aware of the fact that a true kamikaze pilot only makes a single flight. They are expected to give their life for their mission. As my mentor Tim Elmore says, “There is no such thing as a half-hearted kamikaze. Commitment goes with the territory.”
And so it should be with us.
Unfortunately, the world today is filled with half-hearted kamikaze pilots who routinely fail to live up to commitments. Every day, balls get dropped, deadlines are skipped, deliveries are missed, promises are broken, and well-intended initiatives don’t get accomplished. And it’s easy to see why. In an age of increasing demands, an avalanche of information, and an explosion in technology and communication, why are we surprised that personal accountability is becoming more diluted and keeping our commitments more challenging than ever?
In my opinion, the failure to follow through is one (if not the) primary challenge facing our businesses, our marriages, our communities, and our nation. We are quick to say we believe in something then drift away from it. We don’t hesitate to promise or stay committed to something (or someone) then fall away at the slightest hint of trouble or tribulation. The fact of the matter is, talk is cheap and half-hearted kamikazes are a dime a dozen. What the world needs are more citizen leaders who are unafraid to make and keep commitments.
But how, you ask?
It’s simple, but not easy. Get started by following these three practical tips:
Keep it simple: Leonardo da Vinci once said, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” Nothing could be closer to the truth. In a world where expectations and demands can get the best of anyone, the best way to cut through the clutter is to simplify. One of the easiest ways to do this is to guard yourself from starting too many projects at once. No one, no matter how talented, can consistently deliver on their commitments if they over commit. As a rule of thumb, consider keeping your attention channeled to no more things than you can count on one hand at any given time.
Negotiate clear agreements. One of the biggest impediments to keeping our commitments is the lack of clarity of expectations, timelines, and responsibilities. Guard yourself from falling into this trap by being clear in establishing what you’re going to do (and not do) right up front. If you are unable to deliver on schedule, make a timely counter-promise to those depending on you that you can keep. If you find yourself unable to fulfill a commitment altogether, have the courage to tell those impacted you cannot deliver.
Practice the Nice “No”: As human beings, we are natural pleasers. We want people to like us and we want to fit in. Although there is nothing wrong with this reality, the fact is we find it much easier to say yes than we do no, making it all-too-easy to over commit and under deliver. Instead of making more commitments than you could possible complete, learn to practice what I term the Nice No. That is, being honest with others to tell them when you don’t have the time or bandwidth to do anything else in the present, but you would be happy to reconsider in the future.
Leading well begins and ends with being someone who follows through on their commitments. The more people understand you can be counted on to deliver; that you’re someone who takes their commitments seriously, the greater your influence and impact.
Remember, the world is filled with half-hearted kamikazes. What we need are more men and women who understand commitment, not involvement. This is the key to leading a life of true purpose, meaning and significance.
Are you game?