Leading Also Requires Directing Those Following

I was driving along the highway the other day when I saw a sticker on the back of a car that just hit me with simplistic brilliance. It read: “Visualize using your turn signals!”

Although it was meant for other drivers. It jarred my thinking as when I have watched many leaders or entrepreneurs suddenly realizing the once great army of followers they believed in command of, or blazing a trail for, suddenly has vanished when they look back over their shoulders. Only to then realize too late they have either wandered onto a battlefield willfully under staffed, or worse, anyone that is still following has no idea why.

Now rather than being of any help to you. You suddenly find yourself needing to explain from the very start, or the beginning, person by person as to why they are there and, what they should do. When this happens there’s never enough time or resources. Then you’re either over run or, in ruin. Why?

It’s really quite simple however, the implications are truly significant. Whether you’re a solo-practitioner, entrepreneur, or CEO of an international conglomerate. Far too many get the great idea or insight, articulate the big vision to the troops or masses, grab the sword or reins, then storm out the gates leaving everyone else to just fall in and take their place.

All sounds perfectly in order and splendid to today’s entrepreneurial mindset and more. Yet, there is an issue that gets lost in the shuffle: Plans or terrains are inevitably going to change. And when they do – how will those behind change or adapt for them? Not you – them.

There will be road blocks, technological challenges, unseen enemies or competitors. All understood by the leaders and in some ways anticipated. But the flaw? Most don’t (or wont) give any signals to the troops or followers of the campaign on direction changes and as to why. They just act or think in a spirit of: They’ll see me turn and they’ll turn!

Sounds rationale but in practice you just may find yourself down the wrong path or, up against a rock and a hard place because you took a wrong turn by mistake and you never knew or realized it. Your followers can also act as helpful guides keeping you from making wrong turns also. And, that’s only if they are aware of where they are going, and why.

Leaders lead. However, if they don’t articulate the what, where, and why you want to venture down certain causeways. Leaving the troops or masses to simply trust where you’re going or intuitively discern. The  ramifications or consequences of this can not only be profound but, rather unwelcome.

For an example or metaphor, just look at the many botched marathon runs that happen round the globe year after year.

Everyone understands they start at Point A. Then finish at Point B. They give the details, set the agendas. promote the event, induce the greatest of talent to compete and drop the starting gate. Then, for whatever the reason someone somewhere forgot to post “this way.” What happens?

The front-runners make a wrong turn and the entire pack follows. Not a few but all. This only gets realized when the event planners realize no one crossed the finish line far later than anticipated. Then to suddenly panic and send out search teams. (Yes – search teams!) Only to find not only the front-runners but, the entire pack still running. Running off course – but still running!

If you are or want to be an effective leader. Whether that be to people directly subordinate to you or leading a market. Don’t think just because you know what to do or why, that others can read your mind. They can’t nor should they. As a leader that responsibility of articulating direction is a requisite for you – not them.

Their requisite is to help and follow without the worry you’re going to lead them where only a search and rescue team will find them.

Visualize the unknown paths. Sure.  Just don’t forget to signal the others behind you when they need to turn. Or stop!

© 2013 Mark St.Cyr