PonderThis: Kill Off Your Darlings

There is a concept among writers that in order to excel, you must be willing to “Kill off your Darlings.”*  Normally this refers to a wonderful turn of phrase, plot device or literary construct that the writer may love, but just does not serve the purpose for which it was designed.  But what about in leadership?

Are there ideas that you hold dear- “darlings” that impede progress?  Dr. Neil Stroul, one of the leadership coaching faculty at Georgtown University used be very fond of pointing out that as people, we are walking bundles of stories and habits.  So, it is a good idea to occasionally spend some time pondering the idea of shedding some of our old stories.

Sometimes it is letting go of an old opinion of a colleague or direct report to reassess.  Often, a strategy or process has outlived its usefulness, or a compensation plan, or an organizational structure.  Perhaps there is a part of your daily routine that is more a comfortable habit than a critical process.  A little time re-examining helps a leader to either reconfirm the importance of daily routine- or find a closely held “darling” that is in the way.

Literature, sacred text, story and myth are full of examples of something small in the way of something for more significant coming forward.  Sometimes, our comfortable current stories can insulate us from much bigger outcomes.  Not every comfortable routine has to go.  Many keep the doors open and the lights on.  But if comfort, history or inertial is all that recommends a current reality, then it is time to ask what else could be more fulfilling, more productive, more powerful or more profitable.

*This quote is often credited to William Faulkner; however, an earlier version come from Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch who said “Whenever you feel an impulse to perpetrate a piece of exceptionally fine writing, obey it — whole-heartedly — and delete it before sending your manuscripts to press. Murder your darlings.” as a warning agaist self indulgence and mediocrity.

PonderThis is published to arrive in your RSS/ mailbox on Fridays as an invitation to consider a new concept or idea over the weekend for use on Monday and goes to thousands of requester on 4 continents.