This Easter weekend I managed to drag my three teenage(+) boys out of bed to do a lovely long country walk in the Kent countryside. When we arrived at the village start point, I parked the car, turned and handed the walking book to one of them: “why do I have to do it?” was the rather typical moody response I received, to which I replied that he didn’t but between them they could lead the way today.
The next 20 minutes was hilarious to be honest
- They all had a look at the book and looked perplexed
- They couldn’t work out where we were and therefore which direction to head
- They kept trying to hand the book back
- We walked up and down the road a couple of times
- My wife got a little stressed and pleaded with me to take-over
- The eldest then took authority and we headed off in a certain direction
One of the first instructions was “100 meters north of the intersection of road x with road y, there is a playing field with a way-marker for Green Sands Way, take this across the field to a gap in the hedge”
We headed north and after a very few steps there was a footpath indicated to the left. “This is probably it” said the lead. It was pointed out that this may not be 100m, that just in front of us was a “caution children” sign and “Recreation Ground” written underneath, that “maybe this might be a clue?” ….but heads and hearts were determined to follow the signed footpath.
What followed continued to be amusing. It was determined this wasn’t a recreation ground, that we should take another path north and so ended up in a housing estate and then doing a complete circuit to about 80m north of where we left the main road to a sign post saying…….. Green Sand Way!!! Which pointed across a recreation ground and to a gap in the hedge!! Off we trotted and for the remainder of the 7 miles we kept pretty much on track.
So, what’s the point and what has THIS got to do with leadership?
In this day and age I am always stuck by how everyone wants a “quick fix”. Our kids have grown up with computer and TV programmes which give instant acknowledgement and gratification: “well done!” People seek the magic bullet fitness or fat loss pill. Wannabe stars would rather head for X Factor, The Voice or Britain’s Got Talent for an instant success rather than working their way up. People seek to win their fortunes on the Lottery or sadly even, through litigation. Sometimes it appears that if results are not instantly obvious we should look elsewhere.
Sadly, we hear this behaviour creeping into corporate cultures also. Plans are written, milestones outlined and measurements put in place to track progress. The pressure from above to deliver over and above expectation can be quite overwhelming and sometimes when we see “a result” the temptation under such pressure can be to interpret that as “the result” and in doing so we may then head in the wrong direction.
“We headed for “a footpath” even though it wasn’t labelled correctly”
In our walk we headed for “a footpath” even though it wasn’t labelled correctly nor matched the description of “the footpath”…and the time and effort we wasted following that could never be regained.
The leadership challenge I therefore see is; how often is it actually better to sit tight and continue in the direction we are heading, comfortable in the knowledge that we will know for sure when we need to change direction and try something new? How confident are we and should we be, when challenged by others, to calm things down and keep on ahead?
Under pressure from others we can let our THINKING overrule our WISDOM, when the noise in our head is more overpowering than the feeling in our gut. Look back at your own performance, when have you been right?
After all….iTS Leadership!
Author: Antony Tinker