Leadership Lessons I Learned From Playing Solitaire

I spent several years traveling the country for business. As a frequent flyer, I was one of the first people to get on the plane, which allowed me to get settled in my seat without holding up the line of people behind me. To keep myself busy while others were boarding, I would play a game on my phone. There were two that I played on a regular basis; solitaire and Sudoku. One day I realized there were four leadership lessons I had learned from solitaire.  I list them below for your consideration.

Leaders need to admit when they are stuck and need help.

The solitaire game on my phone has a “hint” button, which I use when I get to a place where I can’t see that there is the next move. Hitting this button allows me to see what I am missing. As leaders, there are times when we can’t see what our next move should be. We may feel stuck and not know where to go from here. In those moments, we need to get another person’s perspective and insight. They may give us just the hint we need to get us moving once again.

Leaders must realize that sometimes hints only take them so far.

Just because I can continue playing the game doesn’t mean I will win. There are times when leaders should realize they need to play a new hand and go a different direction. Remember, change is not always bad. What got you to this point may not be what will take you to the next level, so be willing to recalibrate from time-to-time.

Leaders need to be aware of what is going on around them.

One can play solitaire without paying too much attention to the cards, but one seldom wins this way. If I am not aware of what cards are to be played next, I will likely miss the opportunity to put the red eight on the black 9, and this can cost me the game. If leaders are not aware of what opportunities they are looking for, those prospects may be lost forever.

Finally, leaders must have a strategy.

I have a planned strategy when I play solitaire; I play cards from largest to smallest piles or right to left. This allows me to eliminate those cards most effectively and I think it gives me a greater chance of winning. Leaders who go through life without a plan don’t last very long or get very far. Plan your day, week, month, and even year if necessary. I often know what I will be doing months from now because I make a plan. I start each day with an ideal schedule, knowing it will be interrupted. But I know what I want to accomplish that day, and I make moves throughout the day to help me achieve it.

What do you do when you get stuck in a project? Who do you ask for help? What changes have you made when you know it’s time to re-calibrate? What are some leadership lessons you have learned from life’s simple pleasures. 

Helpful next steps.

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