Date: September 1, 2010

Author: JT

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Leading to Where You Have Never Been

image “The task of the leader is to get his people from where they are to where they have not been.”

— Henry Kissinger*

This is a great quote, one of many that speaks to a simple aspect of Leadership.  It is hardest for leaders who must lead themselves to a place they’ve never been, as well as those who follow.

Consider two basic circumstances.  As a new manager, hired from outside the organization, it can be easier to see ‘where’ their new team(s) should head.  A view from outside brings new perspective to an organization.  Those new, unexplored ideas can often be the new injection of life a team or organization may need to get moving again.

The challenge for the new manager is to build relationships, develop trusts, and describe a new path.  Only with solid relationships, albeit new, in place can the leader hope to lead an organization forward.  Carrot and Stick approaches, regardless of positional authority, can last only for very short periods.

For an existing manager, leading people from where they are, to where they have not been, is hardest.  Institutional knowledge sets in. Everyday ‘facts’ become rigidly defined by ‘what is,’ within the organization.  Without care, views of the world outside an organization are increasingly cloudy, obscured.

We all face some amount of calcification in our views.  The longer we stay in one place, the more rigid we become, whether we are aware of it or not.  Partly because of this realization, leaders are often paranoid, eagerly looking outward to the world beyond themselves.  It is not what you know that gets you—it’s what you don’t know.

For the ‘institutionalized’ leader whose been in place for a while, he or she not only needs to lead their team, they need to visualize, to self-create, the place they have not yet been.  Then, they need to convince their team to follow them.

Developing the ‘dream,’ can only come from a constant stream of fresh input.  Perhaps the inputs come from networking, trade events, reading, discussions over coffee, experimentation, or contemplation.  One thing is for certain, if you’re not infusing yourself with new—external—stimulus you will not be able to dream new dreams.  Leaders must dream of where they have not been if they ever hope to arrive.

(photo credit: Paul Bodea)

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