Jun 01 2022| Values | Leadership | leaders
by Phil Eyre Leaders Founder
In Phil’s latest article in Business Brief, he discusses how the world today - whether in business, government or society - desperately needs leaders who are ‘off-the-map leaders’. In other words, leaders who embrace the idea that the future cannot be predicted with a high degree of certainty. Leaders who enjoy the idea that uncertainty is the very condition that adds immense value to life and work.
In 1804, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark and their ‘Corps of Discovery’ of 40 people set off to find the elusive and, as it turns out, mythical, river passage across America to the Pacific Ocean. Their story is one of team leadership at its utmost, packed with exemplary insight into enduring leadership qualities.
With thanks to Tod Bolsinger for coining the phrase in his book, ‘Canoeing the Mountains’, it is the ‘off-the-map’ leadership quality that is particularly inspiring and needed today. Picture the scene:
Lewis, Clark and their team had arrived at the source of the Missouri river after many months of arduous expedition. Received wisdom was that this would mark the peak mountain range, with a ‘water passage’ flowing west to the Pacific Ocean. Discovery of this route would, it was believed, catalyse a new golden era of trade. As Lewis and Clark reached the source of the Missouri, canoes in hand, they were faced not with a sloping plain and rivers down towards the Pacific but with the ominous Rocky Mountains. Unexpected. Unsuitable for canoes. Unmapped.
What would you do? The Corps of Discovery adapted and pressed on; their story is well worth a read.
Here are three things that we can learn from them:
We observe this quality in leaders who respond calmly to both successes and problems. They don’t react with drama. In fact, high-drama reactions will undermine team confidence. Leaders with a big idea have a constant ‘press-forward’ mindset. They celebrate successes for a moment and then move on. They commiserate failures for a moment and then move on.
What’s the point (purpose) of your business? If you’re not sure, your people will not follow you over the mountains. Are you living on the fumes of past successes or failures? If so, today is the day to put them behind you and move forward.
One practical way that we observe this at Leaders is the desire to invite unconventional perspectives when addressing challenges. Lewis and Clark certainly did this (read their story), yet too often we encounter the familiar-source fallacy when working with executive teams. They seek familiar ideas from familiar people. Instead, the best leaders put effort into seeking out unusual, potentially uncomfortable, sources of information and inspiration.
Are you wedded to conventional wisdom? Who is bringing fresh thinking to you and your company?
The best leaders give quality time to their people, not rushing, cancelling or squeezing in hasty conversations but truly valuing their relationships. How much are you investing in your team?