The Toughest Choices A Leader Must Make


Americans crave the right to choose. We revere our autonomy. We don’t want to participate in a predetermined plot; we want to create our own future. We are the masters of our own destiny—the captain of our ship. No one else is allowed at the helm.

The entertainment industry bears out the American preference for individual choice. As far back as 1979, Bantam Books begin publishing its /Choose Your Own Adventure/ series.

No longer was a reader tyrannized by the will of the author. Instead, by making crucial decisions at pivotal plot points, the reader could shape the outcome of the story.

In the infancy of the video gaming industry, most games followed a fairly predictable “mission.” Players guided characters through a prearranged series of levels to overthrow a villain and rescue a princess. Through time, the landscape of the gaming industry has shifted to cater to the American love of choice.

The highest-selling PC game of all time, The Sims allows gamers to design, define, and guide the lives of its characters.

At the end of 2006, Nintendo introduced the /Wii/ to the market. The highly integrated system allows users to bowl or play baseball by physically maneuvering the controllers. No longer are gamers required to direct on-screen characters—now, gamers are the characters.

Television has also not been ignorant of its audience’s desire to participate in programming. Whereas judges solely used to determine the outcome of contests, now the viewing audience can pick who wins and loses by text messaging their votes to the show. /American Idol and Dancing with the Stars/ have become cultural phenomenon in large part because of their interactive format, which draws the viewer into the show’s outcome.

As resolute as Americans can be about exercising our right to choose, it’s amazing how little thought we devote in choosing the direction of our lives. An alarming percentage of us simply drift through life as captives of circumstance. We don’t select a purpose for our lives, we don’t bother about the legacy we leave, and we aren’t strategic about which activities will take up our time.

In a feature for /, Roy Blunt talks about the three most important choices a leader faces in life: purpose, usage of time, and legacy.

The First Choice – Purpose

Blunt ranks purpose as the top choice a leader must make. Why are you here? What do you hope to accomplish during your lifetime? What is the mission statement of your life? Perhaps the most fundamental of all human choices, selecting purpose guides every area of a leader’s life.

The Second Choice - Time

In Blunt’s opinion, the second most important choice made by leaders is how they use their most precious resource—time. In the words of Annie Dillard, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” Each person is handed an equal allotment of hours each day. Leaders leverage their hours. They recognize how much today matters, and they prioritize the activities on which to spend their valuable minutes.

The Third Choice - Legacy

Blunt lists legacy as the third essential choice made by a leader. He describes legacy as “where your energies take you at the end of each day.” Every person must choose what they are chasing in life. Is personal fame the goal? Philanthropy? Relationships with friends and family? Whether a person’s leadership is remembered as worthwhile or worthless depends greatly upon his or her chosen legacy.

To see the complete text of Roy Blunt’s article, “The Toughest Choices a Leader Must Make,” visit http:~/~/

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