The problem with being an inspirational leader with scott wozniak

Good leaders inspire their people to get out of their comfort zone and push past their boundaries, right? Isn’t that what we’ve been told all the great leaders did?

Well, I tried to be a good leader for my family and it totally failed. In fact, my leadership failure created the single terrible moment in an otherwise epic week of vacation. 

My failure wasn’t because I wasn’t persuasive enough, though. 

See, my wife and I don’t approach skiing the same way. I’m pretty aggressive. And while she’s really coordinated, she feels no need to push her boundaries. Plus, I’ve been skiing for over twice the number of years she has. So, in ski terms, while I love blacks and blues, she loves greens–and blues are doable but intimidating.

Well, on a ski trip in 2023, for her second run on our first day, I convinced my wife to join me on an off-trail run that would probably be rated between blue and black–much harder than she has done before. 

I was sure that all she needed was encouragement, that if she were willing to, she would figure it out, and this would open up a new world of options for her and me to ski together.

It totally failed. She tried; she really did. But I forgot how hard deep powder is for skis. I was using a snowboard, which makes tight turns much easier than skis. And early in the run, she wiped out and twisted her knee. 

She was willing, but the run was so far beyond her skill level that she had a terrible time. In fact, she took her skis off and slid down the rest of the way on her butt.

Even if you can inspire your people to do more, it doesn’t mean they will actually be able to do it. Motivation is not enough. You also need to train them, provide them with the tools, and match the challenges to their skill level. 

My wife had the concepts and the motivation, but she had not practiced the skills enough to do them at high speed on bumpy terrain. 

Just because you can communicate the changes you want to see and your people are willing doesn’t mean you can overhaul your company in one month–or even one year. 

Don’t make the same mistake I did. Be patient and help your people grow at their own speed. Don’t mistake sufficient motivation for sufficient skill. 

Oh, and in case you’re wondering, her knee injury was mild enough that she took one day off skiing but was able to get back on the slopes the next day. She even forgave me and gave me permission to share this story!



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