What are your “Non-Negotiables” as a leader?

The USS Montana was somewhere in the Irish Sea. The sea was rough and visibility was very poor. A tense conversation took place between an American Captain of the USS Montana and an Irish Radio Operator.

American: Again, this is the USS Montana requesting that you IMMEDIATELY divert your course 15 degrees to the north to avoid collision…Over

Irish: Please divert YOUR course 15 degrees to the south to avoid collision….Over 

Battleship in story seas

American: This is Captain Hancock. You WILL divert your course!…Over

Irish: Negative, Captain. I’m NOT moving anything. Change your course….. Over
American: This is the USS Montana, the second largest vessel in the North Atlantic Fleet. You will change course 15 degrees north or I will be forced to take measures to ensure the safety of this ship…..OVER!

Irish: This is a lighthouse! It’s YOUR call.

The old stories are the best. Different versions of this story go back a long way. This version was the script from an award winning Swedish TV advertisement. The relevance of this story for us is that there are some things in life that, by their very nature, will not change. They are non-negotiable. They are fixed. However much the Captain issued threats, the lighthouse was not going to move, so he had either to adjust his course or suffer the consequences. I want to highlight two non-negotiables that you can’t change but you will have to work with on your voyage. The better you understand them, the better the progress you will make on your journey. The first is your personality and the second is a principle of life.

1.Know Thyself

This is an ancient Greek aphorism from the temple at Delphi. If you know your own strengths and weaknesses, you will be in a much stronger position to maximise your potential and manage your limitations.

Don’t try to change your personality, but rather focus your efforts on changing your behaviours to become more effective. Your effort should not be on trying to change the nature of things, but on how to nurture the nature.

2.The Principle of Ut Severis Seges

Did you have a school motto? I did. It was three Latin words. Ut Severis Seges. It means, “As you sow, so shall you reap.” It is a quotation taken from the book of Galatians in the Bible. What does it mean? In its simplest form, it means if you sow a yam, you will get a yam, and not wheat. If you sow a melon, you will harvest a melon, and not an orange. You harvest what you sow. You get out what you put in.

Zig Ziglar said, “Every choice you make has a result”. There is a consequence. It is the natural order of things. You can trace things back from the result to the actions to the choice. If you had made a different choice or taken different actions, you would have a different result.

What should you do with these non-negotiables? The more you apply the Ut Severis Seges principle to your personality the more you will progress towards the destination of your choice.

John Greenway

This article is an excerpt from my upcoming book – “Leaders’ Map”. It would be great to get your feedback, so please do share your comments here or on Twitter or LinkedIn.

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