How You Handle Unexpected Discoveries Says a Lot About Your Leadership Skills

Some leaders panic when things don’t go according to their five-year plans; others realize the detour may be something that can be good in the long run.

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Whether you call it Columbus Day, Indigenous Peoples Day or just another manic Monday, today represents a day of reflection.

I know usually we reserve those sorts of proclamations for New Year’s Day—when you make a list of resolutions you break by the end of that week anyway—or the first day of spring, when there’s a mentality of “out with the old and in with the new,” but how about discovering something new?

History will continue to debate the legacy and importance of Christopher Columbus when it comes to leading his three ships to the American coastline, but I still find a lesson that you can apply to your businesses: how do you handle it when your plans go off-course?

Discovering a New World

If you’re the CEO or president of a company and something happens that you don’t expect, is your first reaction to panic and wonder how you’re going to steer things back toward the intended destination? Or do you go with the flow and see where the unexpected new direction takes you?

It’s great to have a five-year plan for the organization, but it’s also OK when not everything goes according to that plan and you discover your company—or some of the people within it—can do things you never realized. When you get that information, how do you handle it?

Of course, the ultimate goal of any business is client satisfaction, but will you nurture the newly discovered talent and let it possibly take you into directions you didn’t expect or will you stifle that talent because it doesn’t fit into the five-year plan and perhaps risk a mutiny?

There are a lot of things that happen every day in business—and in life—that are different than how you mapped them out. If you let that uncertainty deter you from moving forward, who knows what kinds of possibilities you’re missing out on?