Leadership, it has been said, is about taking people somewhere, either where they want to go or where they need to go. But in either case, much of leadership is viewed through the lenses of travel and destinations.
One of the most important leadership lessons I have now come to understand is that how you get to your destination, how you travel there, is as much a part of leadership as arriving.
The motions and means of leadership “travel” do as much to shape our followers and ourselves as that of reaching our destination. It is the journey that forms and reforms the leaders and people we will be when we arrive.
When we arrive in a new land, a new location, how is that we set out moving ahead? Shall we build a road or shall we follow a trail? Do we pave our way forward or gently pick our way through?
Paving a road or following a trail. The choice forms the leader we will be when we arrive at the other end.
Following a Path
Path following requires knowledge and familiarity with a place.
It asks the leader for intimate contact with the land as she or he going through it.
Path following requires a leader to stay in touch with the landscape following, obeying, and yielding to the natural contours of the land.
Paving a Road
The road paver overcomes all resistance of the ground as the environment is bent to the leader’s will.
The road paver avoids contact with the area by going over it.
The road paver does not stay in touch with the landscape, but eliminates it and replaces it with a creation of their own.
The road paving leader ignores the natural contours of the land and instead bends, blasts, and bulldozes their vision into being.
Land for the path follower becomes a place to remain. The land for a road paver is a place to traverse through. The path follower moves around obstacles and even through them letting them and their power and presence remain in place. The paver blows up and removes obstacles or bridges over them. Remove, avoid, and conquer are the paver’s means while the path follower balances, brushes, bypasses, and blends.
The path follower is not dependent on power and material but allows the contours of what the ground ahead presents or the insights and experience of others who have gone before.
The road paver has means, machines, men, and material to pave wherever he or she wills it.
The path follower must have a careful eye to notice where others have gone before to follow or what the land seems to make possible. The road paver needs only to keep the destination in mind, to hold that vision before them, and keep moving forward willing, bending, shaping and paving the land to do the impossible.
Both the path follower and the road paver can each reach their destinations but in very different ways. Both are shaped in mighty, but very different ways by the journey as well. Both will have shaped what they have left behind for others.
Is one way the right way you may ask? Doesn’t it seem as though we need leaders can do both well?
In the end, we are paving a road or following a trail into the heart of our leadership souls. We must choose. Which you choose impacts who you become and what you leave behind.