I had a conversation with a colleague the other day about recognizing that our locus of control is finite. There are some things that we can influence, and others that we cannot.
And this has been one of my most important lessons to learn as a leader.
While I don’t feel like I regularly have to “be in control,” I do take solace form the fact that it is possible that I might influence how or why something happens.
And, as I’ve come to learn, there are those situations where there is truly nothing that I can do to alter the outcome. That never prevents me from trying, but still, there are those situations where the locus of control is much smaller than I might have hoped.
What has this taught me? In simple terms, that I have to be just as comfortable steering the ship as I do with getting steered by it. This was a tough realization for me, but in so doing, I’ve found it much easier to deal with the losses that often come when we encounter a scenario where despite our best efforts, we can’t alter in the way we would most like.
There is a fine line here though between recognizing the end of one’s locus of control and simply throwing up one’s hands. Even if we know that our influence on a situation will be small (or non-existent), we still owe it to those we serve (and ourselves) to represent the ideas and values that we hold dear, even if it is possible they will fall unused.
After all, there is a tremendous difference between knowing that one might not have an influence, and choosing to do nothing. Because, in all honesty, nothing will ever happen if we choose not to act.