The 5 Pivotal Decisions in a Leader's Career

In her new book "Pivot Points," Julia Tang Peters examines the five pivotal decisions every successful leader must make.

The book is based on Ms. Peters' research and in-depth interviews with five successful leaders whose careers are marked by the five critical decisions listed below. Ms. Peters has coached Fortune 100 executives as a managing consultant, and she earned masters degrees in management and psychology from Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill.

The five pivot points do not need to occur in a linear fashion, according to the book. Some leaders may encounter these decisions in a zigzag. No matter how they occur, these career points are about preventing "stuckness," according to the book. They bring leaders to new opportunities, challenges, and stages of personal and professional growth.

1. The launching decision. This is when a leader commits to master certain specialized skills and do more than his or her job. When they make this decision, they exit their comfort zone. Work stands for more than an income. This is the decision that creates the platform upon which a potential leader becomes an actual leader.

2. The turning point decision is when leaders act on an important opportunity or problem that often creates a new, bold direction in their careers. As Ms. Tang Peters describes it in the book: "At a turning point, the confluence of a willful decision to do more and the pressing need — or opportunity — to take action unleashes an extraordinary verve to take the business to the next level." This decision requires total commitment and lays the foundation for leaders to become leaders in their respective fields.
3. The tipping point decision involves significant risk and breaks a fundamental barrier. It catapults the individual into the work of leading — distinctly different behavior from the work of mastering a subject and running a business. At this point, leaders have built a team of people they trust who have substantive responsibilities. This lets them on the art of leading inside and outside of the organization. In this stage, they hit their full stride, according to "Pivot Points."

4. The recommitment decision is when "leaders look at where they are and where they want to go, knowing they need to renew their commitment or leave," according to Ms. Tang Peters. Among the leaders examine for "Pivot Points," all experienced turbulence in their work or personal satisfaction after the tipping point, which occurred in the late 40s or early 50s for most. This is the point where leaders pause and either continue their work or change course.

5. The letting go decision is the most emotionally challenging, and everyone faces it. "It can occur at any time when the leader decides another priority or opportunity beckons, when business conditions require a hold 'em or fold 'em decision, or when it's simply time to plan for succession." The book describes the ultimate test of leadership as letting go at a time of strength so other people may carry out the work. This decision is pivotal in defining the terms of a leader's legacy.

More Articles on Hospital and Health System Leaders:
Notes on Leadership: 15 Insights from Hospital & Health System CEOs
10 Ideas That Hospital and Health System CEOs Need to Ditch
12 Insights Into Great Leadership


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