So, I’m a die-hard Penn State fan. I’ve stuck by my alma mater through thick and thin, when the team has been decimated by lack of talent talent over the last twenty years, and more recently decimated by crimes against others. I’ve cheered when the team has showed tremendous resolve in winning tough games, and jeered at the actions and inactions made by those who were foundational to the school and athletic program’s development. And yet, the culture I encountered as a student there, the relationships I made (a group of friends who I got together with a week ago, and my wife, my soulmate, who lived in the dorm next door), and the overarching life experiences that have shaped me, have helped to keep me committed to the school’s success, no matter what.
The cultures we build in our schools, districts, and organizations, are the glue that allows us to stick together even when disaster strikes.
On Saturday, watching the season opener of the Penn State football program for 2016, I picked up on a statement that made me think deeply. One of the announcer’s said of third-year coach James Franklin, “There is a lot on the line for him this season.” Now, certainly that is true for a third-year coach, but I would also say this must be true for any leader, at any time.
The best leaders understand that even if it isn’t apparent, there is always a lot on the line. With so many people to care for, and so many great initiatives constantly knocking at our doors, every decision we make, ever action we take, will have consequences.
The key is for us not to get paralyzed by choice, or to become so over anxious that we put more on the line due to our inability to move forward. As Coach Franklin has no doubt already experienced first-hand, we often must take one step backward to take two steps in the direction we want to go. And that means that sometimes, things on the line fall off, only to be picked up and held onto tighter later on.
As leaders and learners we must relish this feeling of “on the line.” We must always remember that every action will have repercussions, some anticipated, some not. The key, it seems, is to lead in such a way that we help the greatest number of people we can, the greatest number of times, in the greatest manner possible. In this way, while we’ll always have a lot on the line, we’ll also always have a lot of people helping us hold to it.