“We Will Prevail”: The Power of Persistence

“Do not think your single vote does not matter much. The rain that refreshes the ground is made up of single drops.” ~ Kate Sheppard

Yesterday was Election Day in New Zealand – 23 September 2017.  Earlier this week we marked 124 years since New Zealand women became the first in the world to gain the right to vote.

Persistence Sheppard QuoteGrowing up, we were taught about suffrage, and Kate Sheppard, and how significant it was that New Zealand was the first country in the world where women could vote.

But it’s only quite recently that I’ve started to appreciate what Kate Sheppard actually accomplished – and what it would have required of her.

The Suffrage Petition presented to Parliament had 32,000 signatures on it – at a time when the total population of New Zealand was around 700,000.

At a time when there was no social media.

At a time when there was no internet.

At a time when there was no television.

At a time when there was no radio.

At a time when there were about 30 telephone subscribers in the whole country.

At a time when there were no cars.

At a time when rapid communication consisted of telegrams and a postal service.

Think about that for a minute…

Of course Sheppard had help. She organised women around the country into teams, and those teams of women, inspired by the mission and the purpose, swung into action across the country.

Estimates suggest some 600 women around New Zealand helped to collect the signatures that formed the Suffrage Petition.

But think about the energy, and the organisation, and the communication and the effort required to co-ordinate their efforts without the modern tools and systems we take for granted today!

[If you want to find out more about Kate Sheppard and women’s suffrage, visit Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand]

Persistence and Perseverance

So what does this have to do with you?

History is littered with people like Kate Sheppard. Whether it’s Edison and his light bulbs, or Helen Keller going to college. And what do they have in common?

Uncommon levels of persistence.

As a leader, not everything worth doing is easy and quick. In fact, more often than not, the things that most need to be done – the things that will make the most difference in the long run – are hard, require dogged determination, a consistent moral compass, and regular, persistent effort over a long period of time.

In this post, we’ll break down the five characteristics required to pursue that worthy objective.

Persistence Requires Clarity of Purpose

“Efforts and courage are not enough without purpose and direction.” ~ John F. Kennedy

It sounds obvious, but if you don’t have a strong commitment to a worthy objective – however that is defined for you – as soon as the going gets tough, you’ll find something else you’d rather be doing.

Persistence Purpose

Women’s suffrage consumed Sheppard’s life for many years. There were multiple attempts to persuade parliament that legislation should be enacted.  But most interesting, suffrage itself wasn’t Sheppard’s primary driver.

She strongly believed that temperance and prohibition were essential to improve New Zealand society, and in particular, the lives of women – and she knew that men would never vote for prohibition themselves. Her view was that the only way to successfully achieve her objective was to gain the right for women to vote, and she focused on suffrage in the pursuit of a greater purpose.

When you are clear about your purpose, the way to get there starts to fall into place and motivation comes a lot more easily.

Persistence Requires A Reliable Moral Compass

“Morality is the basis of things and truth is the substance of all morality.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi

The types of objectives that are worth pursuing are not always easy. And the way to get there is not always without controversy.

Persistence Morality

I remember learning to use a compass. There was always someone in the group for whom the compass just wasn’t reliable. It would spin around or point just a few degrees away from where everyone else’s was pointing. We’d joke and say they must have magnetic personalities, but it pretty much meant that following their compass was going to get them absolutely and completely lost.

The most effective leaders have a deeply held set of beliefs that guide their decisions. Their moral compass is reliable, and doesn’t veer East or West based on who they’re speaking to, or how much pressure they’re personally experiencing. Consequently they are seen as authentic.

Persistence Requires Unwavering Optimism

“Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.” ~ Helen Keller

I’m pretty well known for maintaining that optimism is an important trait for leadership.

Persistence Optimism

It is the thing that helps you keep going in the darkest hour. It is the thing that your team needs from you when they can’t see the way forward. It is the thing that will help you continue when you really feel you can’t go on.

This is not about blind faith – it’s about a deeply held confidence that you can find a way, where others cannot or will not.

Persistence Requires Uncommon Levels of Patience

“Patience is not simply the ability to wait – it’s how we behave while we’re waiting.” ~ Joyce Meyer

Leaders who lack patience are easily distracted by frivolous sideshows and shiny new goals. They cannot bring the necessary sticking power needed to see the task through to the end.

Persistence Patience

If the goal is worth striving for, there will be set-backs. And there will be nay-sayers and critics. Patience is the secret-sauce that allows the leader to let those waves break against the rocks, knowing that while they will polish off the rough edges, the goal will be achieved before the rocks are completely worn away.

Persistence Requires Flexibility and Problem-Solving

“Let no one think that flexibility and a predisposition to compromise is a sign of weakness or a sell-out.” ~ Paul Kagame

Having unwavering confidence in your moral compass creates the ability to flexibly change course and re-calibrate when you discover that the way is blocked.

One of my favourite aspects of design thinking is that clear and unbending constraints (your moral compass) usually lead to the most innovative and creative solutions.  Some of the most beautiful architecture in the world is created on the most unforgiving sites.

Persistence Flexibility

Most people see these constraints as evidence you should give up. Great leaders see those same constraints as the reason to keep going.


Leadership Possibilities

I want to help you to lead.  Not from a position of power, but from exactly where you are now.

So I’m writing a book specifically for you.  It’ll be out early next year (28 February 2018 to be precise).

If you’d like to know more, please sign up for my newsletter (I don’t spam, just a weekly newsletter) where I’ll keep you up to date on progress, test some ideas, and even share a preview or two as we get closer to launch-day.

Let’s do this!

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