Today’s post is by Bill Treasurer, author of Leaders Open Doors: A Radically Simple Leadership Approach to Lift People, Profits, and Performance (CLICK HERE to get your copy).
Opportunity is a powerful motivator. It always has been. Throughout history, whole migrations of people have left the safe shores of their home country in search of better opportunities somewhere else. Perhaps this is why former British Prime Minister, Benjamin Disraeli, once declared, “Opportunity is more powerful even than conquerors and prophets.”
One of the most basic jobs of a leader is to motivate the people who are being led. People will move mountains for a leader as long as moving the mountain provides them with enriching opportunities. Leaders have to be opportunity-creators. It’s in the pursuit of opportunities that people can try themselves, test themselves, better themselves, and even find themselves. Opportunities are the means by which people and organizations grow, progress, and evolve.
What makes opportunity so motivating? Here are a few reasons:
- Opportunity Points People in the Right Direction: Opportunities keep you focused on what you want instead of what you want to prevent. “Our opportunity is to keep the ball in the air,” not “Whatever you do, don’t drop that ball!”
- Opportunity Activates Imagination: We “take advantage of” or “capitalize on” opportunities. They are conditions that don’t yet exist and require people’s hard work and imagination to be fully exploited.
- Opportunity Inspires Courage: Opportunities are not “sure things.” The positive outcome you hope to create is not guaranteed. Thus opportunities come with potential risks. The risk is what infuses the pursuit of opportunities with excitement.
- Opportunity Inspires Hope: Opportunities come with a potential payoff. They give us something to look forward to. People are willing to suffer through the hardships that come with pursuing an opportunity precisely because of the hope that it will all be worth it in the long run.
Providing people with meaningful, skill-stretching opportunities is a leader’s most important job. That’s not an overstatement. When you get down to the core of leadership, giving opportunity is even more important than getting results. Results are ends, opportunities are means. You get results after pursuing opportunity. Results are opportunities fully achieved. Providing people with enriching opportunities is so important that Albert Einstein said, “All that is valuable in human society depends on the opportunity for development accorded the individual.”
Grasp that idea for a moment. One of the smartest people that ever lived said that providing people with opportunities to develop themselves is all that really matters in society. Opportunity is life’s primary motivator. All that is valuable depends on opportunity. Einstein said so.
Think of a leader who has made a positive impact on your own career or life. Pick someone you actually worked for, not someone on the world stage. There’s a good chance the leader was someone who gave you an opportunity to prove yourself to yourself. The leader likely included you on opportunities that were exciting to pursue and helped you sharpen your skills in the process of pursuing them. And because it’s not enough to just give someone an opportunity and then let them have at it, the leader likely stayed involved by guiding, coaching, and supporting you too.
How about you? Are there people whom you are leading, influencing, or serving? What opportunities are you providing for them? What opportunities will help them grow and develop as they move toward the results that are important to you?
- Bill Treasurer is the author of Leaders Open Doors, which focuses on how leaders create growth through opportunity. Bill is also the author of Courage Goes to Work, an international bestselling book that introduces the concept of courage-building. He is also the author of Courageous Leadership: A Program for Using Courage to Transform the Workplace, an off-the-shelf training toolkit that organizations can use to build workplace courage.