By Tim Hayes []

I don’t believe in coincidence.  I think everything happens for a reason, even though we may not realize it as it’s happening.  Instead, I believe in luck – as defined by that first century Roman gadfly Seneca, who said, “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”

Using Seneca’s definition, I would have to say that the luckiest man on the face of the earth – with apologies to Lou Gehrig in “Pride of the Yankees” – has to be one Richard Starkey of Liverpool, England.  You may know him by his stage name, Ringo Starr.

John Lennon, Paul McCartney, and George Harrison had been playing rock-and-roll music together as the Quarrymen and eventually the Beatles for a couple of years since meeting as high schoolers.  They’d had a handful of drummers, the most recent a nice-enough chap by the name of Pete Best, whose Mum had helped book gigs for the boys.  But going into their first recording sessions, the lads heard that they’d have to use a studio-employed drummer.  Pete’s beats were lacking.  He had to go.

And then, just weeks before their first major live performance in September 1962 – the one that rocketed them to stardom – the Beatles poached Ringo from a band led by Rory Storm, whoever that was.  Instantly, the serendipitous Mr. Starkey punched a ticket to ride the gravy train to musical, cultural, and financial heights few have experienced.

But was it luck alone?  No, it was preparation (Ringo was clearly a better, more experienced drummer who could come up with unusual and distinct rhythmic approaches) coupled with opportunity (the boys needed a replacement in a hurry).

What does all this have to do with leadership communication?  Plenty.  In fact, it has everything to do with it.

Identifying and articulating a vision provides the foundation for leadership communication.  But what happens when challenges, competitors, disasters, distractions, detractors, and various other forms of negative influencers converge?  Leaders need to be prepared in these instances, too. 

For example, is BP simply having a run of bad luck?  What about Toyota a few months ago?  No, they were not properly prepared to react when the opportunity arose to openly, honestly, and courageously address their respective crises.  Just ask their CEOs whether they’re feeling lucky lately.

Handling crises may be the most visible and tangible example of preparation meeting opportunity in leadership communications, but it’s hardly the only one.  How about seizing the imagination of the marketplace to elevate a product or image?  Think of Lady Gaga’s musical training at Julliard (yes, it’s true) meeting her avant-garde sense of fashion and performance art.  Or how about demonstrating patience and competence that outlasts less well-seasoned competitors?  Think of IBM still standing, still growing, still relevant after Commodore, Compaq, Atari and so many other computing companies wilted in the competitive heat.

I believe in luck.  Maybe more accurately, I believe in making your own luck through preparation that can capitalize on opportunities as they arise.  Hey, if nothing else, it sure worked for Ringo – the luckiest man on earth.

Copyright 2010 Tim Hayes Consulting