What You Can Learn from Christopher Columbus

courage

By: Kevin Eikenberry

 

In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue.

If you are like me, you learned that rhyme sometime in elementary school.

Specifically, Columbus left on his first voyage on August 3, 1492, sailing in search of a seagoing route from Europe to Asia with the vision of creating a trade route for spices, silk and more.

He led a crew of three ships on that voyage and, as history shows, instead found islands of North America. While not the first European to make this discovery (the Norse did it 500 years prior), it was his voyages that lead to the widespread awareness (and eventual colonization) of “the New World”.

Enough history.

I am writing about Columbus not because of his discoveries, or even his major mistakes, but because of what his life can teach every leader.

Here are five specific lessons, as valuable today as ever, that we all can take from Columbus` legendary life.

Exercise your belief. Columbus believed the earth was smaller in circumference than most did. This belief led him to the logical (based on his beliefs) assertion that within a few weeks his ships could reach Asia. While he was wrong, he built his plan based on that belief, gathered support for his plan in spite of ridicule and disbelief, and crafted a plan to test those beliefs. This is what leaders do.

When did you last exercise your beliefs in a tangible way?

Find great supporters. Columbus didn`t have the resources, power or money to put his plan into action. He tried to build support in Portugal and England, before finally persuading Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain to support his plan. Even Royalty wasn`t enough – his supporters also included a group of Italian business interests. Great leaders know they can`t do it alone, and they are persistent in building support for their visions and beliefs.

Have you created a team of supporters for your vision?

Don`t be satisfied. Columbus found land in his first voyage (what is now the Bahamas), but he didn`t find the trade route he sought. So he went again, and again and again. Ultimately he led four voyages; each finding new territory (and getting as far as Panama). While you could classify him a failure in achieving his desired goal, you can`t call him a quitter. When your vision is clear, and your belief strong, you can lead persistently.

How persistent are you? Do you lead past the first challenge or failure?

Build a plan. Columbus didn`t just go to Queen Isabella, turn on the charm, lay out some ideas and then go hop on the ship. His navigational beliefs, his travel plans, and his funding support came together over several years. The funding process alone started seven years before he sailed. Over that time he honed his plan, made adjustments, and continued to build as he brought the plan to ultimate fruition.

Do you plan? Are you willing to adjust and modify when necessary in service of your beliefs and vision?

Think bigger. In the time of Columbus you could get spices from Asia on the overland route. Before he sailed, people had even gotten there by sea by sailing around the tip of Africa. Columbus, though, thought bigger. He believed from his study and planning that he could make it directly, more quickly and more cost effectively by sailing west. He didn`t tie himself to conventional wisdom or approaches. He thought bigger. It was this bigger thinking that ultimately helped him sell his plan.

How big do you think? Are your visions large enough to captivate, persuade and engage others to follow you?

The story of Columbus proves that we can learn from events and actions from more than 500 years ago and while the context has changed, the lessons are as real and valuable as ever. The lessons are always there, when we look for them.

The other major message of this article isn`t just the lessons, but is found in the questions after each idea; questions that beg application of the lessons. Learn the lessons, but answer the questions to really bring the lessons to life for you and those you lead.

Remarkable Leaders are continually learning and practicing the lessons of Columbus, which is just one example of why learning continually is one of the competencies of The Remarkable Leadership Learning System – a one skill at a time, one month at a time approach to becoming a more confident and successful leader. You can get two months of that unique system for free as part of our Most Remarkable Free Leadership Gift Ever today at http://MostRemarkableFreeLeadershipGiftEver.com and become the leader you were born to be.

 

 

 

Kevin is an author, speaker, trainer, consultant and the Chief Potential Officer of the Kevin Eikenberry Group (http://www.KevinEikenberry.com), a learning consulting company that helps organizations, teams and individuals unleash their leadership potential.

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