mASTERING THE lEADERSHIP wALK
Leaders walk. It’s that simple. You cannot possibly lead effectively sitting in one place. You cannot be secluded behind closed doors, huddled behind your desk.
To be sure, there are times where a little uninterrupted office time is necessary. Visioning the future. Planning the day. Determining how to best navigate for your team. Perhaps even a little paperwork has to be done.
However, in the long run, everyone is more effective when leaders walk. The organization. The team. Individual employees. Even the leader himself.
Yet it’s not just a matter of walking.
- It’s where you walk.
- How you walk.
- Who do you walk with.
- What you do while walking.
All of that makes the difference between idle walking and leading.
Leaders Walk Around
Being where your people are is critical. In their flagship book In Search of Excellence, Tom Peters and Robert Waterman popularized the term Management By Wandering Around. By the way, if you haven’t read it yet it should be added to any leaders must-read list, along with Peters latest book, The Excellence Dividend.
The whole concept behind the term is that managers can best lead their people when they are where the people are. They are accessible. They see what is happening. It’s easier to spot problems. More to the point, it’s a very effective way to discover what employees are experiencing. You see what their day is like instead of simply reading a summation on a report. If you want to navigate for your team, you have to not only see the horizon but know where the ship is now.
Numbers don’t tell you that. Your people do.
Leaders Walk “With Me”
In addition to wandering around, leaders also choose to walk along.
You may have the vision of a leader as someone who walks ahead of others. They are looking behind them and urging others to catch up and keep moving. But they are always ahead. After all, if you are leading then you are out in front, right?
However, a leader is most effective when they are walking beside or inviting others to walk along. Shouting instructions or encouragement from further up the road doesn’t make people feel like part of the journey. Often it’s quite the opposite. Instead of getting them to close the distance it actually makes them feel the distance more acutely. They don’t feel a part of things. Instead, they feel like they are being dragged along for the ride. Like a little kid having to go along to Great Aunt Anna’s house where she kisses you on the cheeks and leaves smears of lipstick and smells like licorice.
Walking Along Not Ahead
Years ago, Stanley Ott wrote a book called The Joy of Discipling. If you are faith-oriented, I recommend it. Not a long book but definitely a powerful one.
In the book, Ott describes the premise of discipling (teaching or guiding) others is through a “With Me” approach. Bringing them along with you but also walking along with them; for the journey is not for one person but for both of you. Along the way, both of your grow.
As a leader, your objective is not to be out front; it’s to be beside others. It’s not to say, “I have all the answers“; it’s to say “Let’s find the answers together.” It’s the challenge to bring them along with you on your journey, yet at the same time exploring their journey as well.
That last part is critical because if the relationship only benefits you, the other person is going to lose interest. A leader brings others along to help the team get where they are going. Yet they also perform the vital work of showing the way to where the person is going. It means you have to care for them. You want to know their story. Get to know where they have been and want to know where they want to go. And at all times, being a leader requires having someone with you. Otherwise, all you are doing is taking a lonely walk.
”If you think you are a leader and there is no one behind (or beside) you, then you are just taking a walk!” -John Maxwell
So the objective is to always have someone with you, even as you learn. Discovery as a team or group is so much more productive and rewarding.
Who Do Leaders Walk With?
So, does this mean that you spend all your time walking with everyone? Wouldn’t really leave you much time for anything else, would it? Not only that, but not everyone will want to take that walk. You won’t always have a team filled with people with great attitudes, tremendous work ethic, camaraderie, and ambition. Do you walk with slouches as well as the stars?
Choose Your Walking Partners Wisely
Obviously, the answer is no. As a leader, you have great demands on your time. Walking alongside others take energy and time. So you opt to invite people to walk along with you who will benefit the most from it. Some of the signs of good walking partners are:
- A Teachable Spirit – They need to be willing to learn along the way.
- Open to Discomfort – Growth happens when we are uncomfortable. You can’t settle in and then learn and grow. It just doesn’t happen.
- A Desire to Pass It Along – You aren’t looking to build followers. You are looking to build other leaders.
- A Passion for Service – If someone is looking to walk alongside you just for their own personal gain they will not be helpful in meeting your goals or team objectives. They have to be willing to be of service as well as open to being served.
Where this all fits in together is in the execution. By wandering around, you are able to discover those people who meet the requirements for a good walking partner. You will find out how they can best serve the team goals and learn about their personal goals. Once you find them, you can then invite them to join you on the journey.
WHO ARE YOU BRINGING BESIDE YOU? ARE YOU HELPING THEM ON THEIR JOURNEY, OR JUST DRAGGING THEM ALONG ON YOURS?
Who helps you in your walk? I am committed to walk alongside you on your journey and help you achieve success as a leader. Why not schedule a free Discovery Strategy Session today?