Daily Archives: 24/10/2011

Keys for the Journey: Thoughts for the leader

The role of a leader is to take people to a new destination whether that is literal or figurative. Planning is critical as to the success of the journey and can solve many problems before setting out.

Here are ten things that you need to know.

1. Know where you are now.

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

This is a commonly used saying but it can be translated “The journey of a thousand miles begins beneath one’s feet.”

I prefer the alternative version as it emphasizes that we need to have an understanding about our current situation and circumstances. Taking stock of where you are and being self-aware and community-aware is a vital component to understand before launching on a new project or adventure.

2. Know where you are going.

“If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.”
Lewis Carroll

You need a map, or at least some navigation tools (and know how to use them). To have a goal to achieve or to have a destination to get to is important as you ca use it to measure progress.

3. Know why you are going.

The “why” is the thing that will keep people motivated when they lose sight of the goal. It creates purpose and buy-in. Sometimes the reason for a mountain to be climbed is just because it is there, but to achieve victory on a great journey you need to know why you are traveling. Columbus did not travel into a big blue ocean for no reason, his purpose was to find new trade routes to Asia, discovering the Americas along the way was a by-product.

4. Know how you will travel.

The method is important and how you start a journey may not be how you finish it. There will be times when you will have to adapt to new environments to get there.

5. Know who you will travel with.

The team is important, they are not just the workers or minions, they are vital in achieving great things. They may be (and should be) better than you, highly skilled, technically minded people, people who get things done. They may be stronger leaders than you. They may annoy you, question you, disagree with you; you need them to. “Yes-men” will allow you to fall into a chasm because they won’t challenge you.

Some people may not stay for the whole journey but they will be always part of the story.

6. Know when to rest.

The journey may be hard, long, wearying, and dangerous, so know when to stop and rest.

Enjoy the scenery as this has two effects… 1 you and your team can refresh and re-energize themselves. 2 It gives you an opportunity to assess the situation, take stock, and plan the next phase.

Rest is vital to avoid burnout. If you do not rest you will make mistakes that may mean you will not succeed to your destination.

7. Know when to change direction.

very rarely in life is the path from “A” to “B” a straight line. you will need to change direction and even travel in the apparently wrong direction to reach your destination. There are obstacles to avoid unnecessary dangers to steer around, the terrain may be too hard to travel in that direction.

You may have gone down a dead-end. The only choice as a leader is to swallow your pride, turn around and backtrack until you can move in a better direction.

It is essential at these time to hold on to the map and to reiterate the “why”.

Humility will need to triumph over ego in these circumstances.

8. Know what the dangers could be.

Constantly be aware of the changing world around you (environmental, political,social etc). Listen to your team, what are they saying, they may have seen something you haven’t. Investigate and take seriously any reports of danger and after investigation act accordingly. Know what is real and what is fear.

9. Know what you need to take.

Provisions, skills, equipment, expertise, the old scout motto is all important here “Be prepared”.

10. Know what to do when you get there.

Plan the celebration, learn to recognize and celebrate achievements on the way. Remember the team got you there they should all be recognized. Don’t rest at the summit that is not the end of the road. this chapter may be finished but there are more to be written.

At this point go back to my first point know where you stand  then decide where you are going.

The only thing to know left after you have thought about all of this and have taken time to prepare is…

Know when to start.

Paul S Allen 

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