I believe it was through this experience that I came to realize why the topic of Visionary Leadership is such a passion of mine: I simply cannot stand the inability to see the larger picture and final destination.
Big Picture vs. Bird’s Eye View
In the case of following my GPS, this meant literally. If I wanted to be fully focused on the task-at-hand, such as driving 10 miles on Rt. 57 south and exiting at Exit 12, then it performed exceptionally and I could see exactly where I needed to go.
But if I wanted the bigger picture, such as how the route would wind through the State of Illinois, which state I’d enter next, and how it was taking me to my final destination – all from my current point of view – forget it. I had to keep pushing the “expand” button for it to give me the “bigger picture” (which, technically, you’re not supposed to do while driving) and then, when the picture was too big for the GPS’s taste, it took me to a birds-eye view instead.
I didn’t want the bird’s view; I wanted my view of where I was, where I was headed and what route I was taking to get there. I wanted it all mapped out in front of me so that I felt confident in the entire plan, thus enabling me to fully focus on the task at hand.
Rather than focusing on the task at hand I found myself yelling at the GPS device, which took on the name “Jack” because of the language selection offered by the device (“American – Jack”), and I ended up sounding like Kate Winslet in Titanic, “Jack! Where are we going, Jack?!”
Knowing Your Optional Paths
Why is this important? When you can’t see the bigger picture you don’t know your optional paths.
At one point I hit a construction backup. I had about 0.3 seconds to determine if I would go ahead and sit in the backup for 45 minutes, or follow the word “detour” that was flashing on the orange sign that had suddenly become visible, just ahead.
Because it was nighttime and I was in a rural area, and because I had no idea where, exactly, I was in the larger picture and if there might be a number of other reasonable paths to travel, I simply wasn’t sure if I could trust the “detour” path as a better option than sitting in traffic.
So I sat in traffic and lost 45 minutes of drive time.
Why is my experience important for leaders?
- Visionary leaders don’t have a GPS device that you can “trust” to take you to the destination embodied by your vision. Thus, you must have your vision in front of you at all times to ensure you’re steering your team in the right direction.
- It’s critical to know where you and your team are at all times. This sounds incredibly obvious, but how many times as a leader do we have to stop and ask ourselves and our team, “Where exactly are we at with this?”
- Don’t lose sight of the bigger picture. Most teams are focused on the daily task at hand. With a view of the larger picture, you’ll be able to steer them to optional paths if they hit roadblocks along the way.
- With confidence in your strategies (path) for reaching your vision, you can focus on your own tasks at hand as well.
The Ultimate Big Picture
Ultimately, I believe your number one priority is to have your eyes set on your vision, consistently reinforcing for your team what that vision looks, feels, smells, tastes and sounds like, and to be consistently reviewing the strategies and tactics you are using to reach that vision.
How you get there – as a leader of values and character and integrity is vitally important as well. But without a vision you have no idea where you, and your team, may end up.
What do you think?
Please share your insights in the comments!
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Photo is Winding Road by acookeuk.