Leadership: Lost and Found

I have fond memories hiking with friends in the wilds of West Virginia in my 20s. We had completed an overnight and a full day of hiking and were ready to head back to base camp with the question being “Ok, so how do we get there?” Our group leader pulled a compass from his pack and said- “I’ve been practicing with this and I’m think we can get close.” Hm. Using the word “think” in contrast to “know” raised concerns on my part but it wasn’t paralyzing.

How come?

I had confidence in his navigating skills, yes, but mostly because I trusted him. With compass in hand, he led us for several hours through forest that was, heretofore, unexplored. During this time, I noticed a “wall of worry” manifesting amongst the group; our leader, focused on the task at hand, carried on without pause. Finally, in late afternoon, we broke through heavy thicket onto a sunlit hilltop – one hundred yards below sat our basecamp. A collective sigh of relief, cheers, and high-fives commenced as we descended and reached camp before dark.

This experience demonstrated an example of effective leadership for me. The urgency of the situation required our leader to use both a directive style and expertise – and our group was glad for it. The… direction (literally and implicit in his style of interaction) was wholly appropriate for the scenario at hand. Our leader’s preparation, navigation skills, and demeanor yielded a posture that met the challenges presented to the group with both being 1) finding our way and 2) leading the group well.

Effective leadership can be difficult to define. However, we all have persons that come to mind when someone asks, “Can you name 3 great leaders?” Our answers are most likely influenced by life experiences (personal, family, social, occupational), personality, and other factors including our current circumstances. Interestingly, those answers given by someone whom we believe share our values (such as a spouse or significant other) may be surprisingly dissimilar than our own (Experiment: Write your 3 answers out first and then ask a neighbor, friend, co-worker, and then someone close to you. Try this out and let us know your findings). Cultural and social factors enter the picture here. Asking this question to a person living in Paris or Berlin will undoubtedly bring a different answer than posing the same question to a resident of New Delhi, Los Angeles, or Baltimore – your thoughts?

I chose to write about this life/leadership experience to illustrate how helpful effective leadership can be in times of need. At first take, our leader’s behavior appeared effortless – his confidence, skills, and demeanor all communicated “Don’t worry, I got this.” It struck me that this “effortless” display is far more challenging than it appeared to be. Using an example of self-leadership, watch a pro golfer hit a beautiful tee shot – it looks so easy. As those of us who are “students of the game” know, that golf swing is the result of thousands of hours of physical and mental effort: practice, conditioning, and training.

Highly effective leaders and managers also achieve mastery through years of mistakes, missteps, and bad decisions. One of the takeaways here is the crucial importance of perseverance and the willingness to learn and to grow. A funny thing happens when we admit that we don’t know everything. In that moment, we become open to knowing more. This state of awareness enables learning and growth, thus setting the stage for more effective future states of leadership.

This blog will consider organizational subjects such as leadership, respect, change, and team dynamics. The complexity, depth, and resulting effects these topics have upon us in our daily work experiences can be extraordinary. Leadership alone is considered by management scholars to be the most crucial determinant of organizational growth and success.

As our company name implies, discussion of work subjects invariably leads us to reflect upon and consider life; both resonate and reciprocate with, in, and through one another.

Most importantly, the reflections and feedback of your work/life experiences shall enrich, enhance, and accentuate the quality of our discussions – we look forward to hearing from you.

Thank you.

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