Ernie and his wife Alice had lived in the district all their lives. They were childhood sweethearts and had been married 53 years. They had no children and other relatives had either left the area or died out. So together they devoted their lives to their very successful mixed farming operation and a number charities in the local community.
For what ever reason they were absolute minimalists. Every dollar they invested was for a clear purpose. Not that they were a stingy couple, quite the opposite. They just needed to be sure everything they did was for the cause and not for show.
Knowing them it was hardly surprising that when Ernie died Alice arranged for a death notice to be placed in the local newspaper which simply said:
Now at the time, James a university student from another area was gaining some work experience at the newspaper during his summer holidays.
When James happened to intercept Alice’s notice he was aghast. Thinking she was short of money he nobly contacted her to say that she could use 180 characters for the same cost and may feel disposed to say something more about poor Ernie.
The next day James received an amended death notice from Alice which read:
Ernie’s Dead, Tractor For Sale.
When I meet not for profit leaders and listen to some of them bemoan the circumstances they and their organisations are in and quite often blame or scapegoat others for their predicament, I often think of Ernie and Alice. To me a number of these people just aren’t going to make it as effective leaders because they fail to see or even look for opportunities in adversity.
As Jack Welch said “Leadership is seeing opportunity in tough times” and great leaders get it.
The thing about opportunities is not whether they exist or not – believe me they do. It is all about what we do with them when we trip over them.
Effective leaders have an understanding and willingness to seize them. They not only have a vision of how their world will look after the opportunity has been grabbed but also have a strong call to action. They recognise the old truism “timing is everything”.
Opportunities are time sensitive and a bit like sand in an hour glass. They diminish over time. Don’t wait too long to seize them.
About the author: Chris Gandy is the Principal and Founder of Cause and Effective , a group that aims to help leaders of cause-based organisations to deliver on their mission by providing insightful information and linking them with affordable subject matter experts. You can contact Chris here