This last week I was reminded of a simple and yet core leadership trait during a lunch meeting with Vickie, who is the CEO of her own management company (she is also our good friend).
As we talked, Vickie shared that her husband and company co-owner Tim had always demonstrated calm leadership. He would often remind those around him that, “It is what it is.”
Vickie said that the greatest demonstration of Tim’s leadership and resolve occurred when he was diagnosed with brain cancer. His immediate verbal response as he learned of the diagnosis, “It is what it is.”
Tim faced the truth; he did not shun responsibility. He faced leadership with reality, courage, and resolve. He was a strong and capable person who learned from a life of co-leading a company to face the facts and plot a course of practical action. For him, this was the only leadership option. And so Tim had characteristically faced his new medical reality head-on - and with a calm assurance that was his hallmark in life and in leadership.
Four months later, Tim Departed this life in peace. That was 16 months ago.
And as we listened to Vickie relay her story – still fresh on the heels of 42 years of marriage – we observed how Tim’s strategy of facing the facts – looking at life’s circumstances courageously and as a leader – remained a core factor in Vickie’s ongoing role as a CEO.
With a smile she said that she too had learned to face facts courageously and head-on, “It is what it is can sound fatalistic,” she said. Vickie explained, “It is not. It is an expression of willingness to deal creatively, directly, and positively with whatever life brings our way. And I can do so with joy, and without fear. Tim’s life reminds me of just that. And so I do! Because it is what it is.”
Vickie told us that she is not the only one who is continually inspired by her late husband’s ability to face facts head-on. She shared a story of a friend who had received a sobering medical diagnosis and who, because of Tim’s example, was encouraged to tackle his own new reality in a straight-forward manner (You can read an email sent to Vickie from that friend by clicking here).
Well done Vickie. You remind us that leadership can at some points be reduced to simple terms. Leaders are willing to face reality and to deal with important issues head-on. Tim was correct. It is what it is.
So just like Tim and Vickie, we confirm that “It is what it is.” Like these two leaders, let’s face the life of leadership with courage and with joy.