It’s easy to get lost. Let me rephrase…I get lost a lot. Now if you were to ask my beautiful wife, she would probably tell you that I’m not “that bad” but see…she has tricked herself into believing that even when I look “lost,” I most likely know where I’m going.
I find the tendency as leaders is to do just that, even when we’re lost, try to at least look like we know where we’re going because, hey…competent leaders don’t get lost..
I’m sure Columbus made a direct line to North America without a wrong turn, and that the many esteemed Generals and military leaders plan of attack worked flawlessly and expelled the perfect amount of effort for the task at hand.
The fact is, getting lost is a part of learning, growing and especially leading. It’s tough to admit when you’re lost. I know I don’t look forward to the long stroll into a 7-11, casually trying to glean information from the cashier about where exactly “here” is…
In business we set plans, cast vision and lead staff and customers to where we are headed…but sometimes, things don’t pan out. Casting vision is the first step in executing, but flawless execution is not a necessity. I’m sure you’ve heard the cliché stories of Michael Jordan getting cut from his High School Basketball team and Thomas Edison striking out on countless ideas before he stumbled upon the light bulb, but it’s much simpler than even those examples illustrate.
Along the process of being lost, you go through a couple stages:
- Panic – Where am I…What’s going on?
- Doubt – What did I do…Why did this happen?
- Pride – I can get out of this…I don’t need help
- Humility – I can’t get out of this…I need help
These four stages generally apply to most situations and while the timelines are different (each stage could be minutes, hours, days) most people will experience each one.
The key differentiator that I find with successful leaders is their ability to embrace these four stages and learn from them.
- Coping with panic and controlling your emotions and fear
- Contextualizing the problem and placing things in perspective
- Accepting responsibility and leading selflessly
- Humbling yourself to your co-workers/friends/family to aid you in your time of need
I struggle with each of these stages myself within various contexts and must continue to be reminded of;
(a) my role as a leader
(b) my responsibility as a leader
(c) my commitment to the plan/organization/people
Navigating through difficult situations is a reality. Viewing them as anything but an opportunity to learn and grow is a failure.