“Mastering Those Martian Moments: Surviving as a Leader When You Feel Stranded on Mars”
Those of you who know me are aware that I love going to the movies. It’s my chill thing and it’s one of my “relax and revive” stress busters. A couple of weeks ago, we had a family outing and we went to see The Martian. As I typically do with sci-fi movies, I went in with no expectations. I wanted the story, not my presumptions, to lead me. Since I purposely had not paid any attention to the movies’ reviews and spoiler alerts, I made the decision to rate this one myself.
The basic premise of the story is about an astronaut, Mark Watney, who was presumed dead by his crewmates and consequently left behind on Mars with limited food, oxygen and other supplies. He makes contact with NASA after his crew leaves and must learn how to survive on an unfamiliar planet until he is rescued.
About 30 minutes into the movie, I was hooked. I started seeing leadership comparisons to what happens when you are new and leading transformational change. The recent changes at my organization have shifted some leaders into new, and very different, roles from the ones that they had grown up in, very different from their familiar. As I considered the changes accompanying our IT transformation, I pictured some of our leaders facing a situation like Watney and wondered, What would they do and how would they do it if they were stranded on Mars? How would they survive a Martian Moment?
I noticed 5 leadership traits that act as survival skills in what I’m going to call Martian Moments, those times when, as leaders, we’re faced with sustaining ourselves in the unfamiliar:
1. Acknowledge the moment and its reality.
The unfamiliar is scary and it is imperative to come to terms with that fear. Recognition and acceptance of fear allows us to process how to combat it. We are then in a position to associate the unfamiliar with things that are more familiar to us.
2. Revive your confidence in who you are and what you know.
Though unfamiliar to us at first, we arrive at every moment armed with our own experience and knowledge. Again, the association of the unknown, to things that we know, assists in elevating our confidence putting us on our path to success. Be prepared to ride the momentum of confidence. It will take you a long way.
3. Expect the unexpected.
It is important to remember that though we are armed with experience and knowledge to help us succeed, the unfamiliar will still come with unexpected circumstances. Our best laid plans are just that, plans. Plans are only beneficial if they are pliable to unexpected realities.
4. Believe in your teammates.
Though we feel alone in this area of unfamiliarity, we are never alone. Each of us has the direct and indirect support of our teammates. Even when our team seems to leave us stranded, as Watley’s crew did in the movie, there is always an explanation. We can choose to trust our team’s good will. Do that, and you could illuminate the whys behind their action and new information you never considered before.
5. Think outside the box.
The unfamiliar compels you to apply your experience and knowledge, and it allows you to be creative. The creativity of out-of-the-box thinking is exactly what produces the breakthrough moments required for greatness.
My most impactful takeaway from the movie was realizing that we have all been The Martian at some point in our lives. We have all been moved to a place of unfamiliarity, and we have all had to create a plan for survival.
Take Action: No matter what it looks like or what you believe you see, decide today to reset your reality and “Martian” your way forward. That’s how you capture your Martian Moment.
Leadership on the GO…..It’s ON