On The Road … A few thoughts about the leadership journey

This post originally appeared on May 28, 2013 and has been revised and updated:


DSCN3228 “Do You Know What Your Leadership Journey Is?”

Dan Oestrich recently (well, three years ago) asked this interesting question of the People Skills group on Google+.

You can read the complete post and all the responses by clicking the title above.  My response is below, somewhat expanded from the original:

My leadership “journey” has been more like an aimless stroll around the edge of a metropolitan area than a planned march toward a specified and clear destination.   I have experienced leadership in corporate environments, on college campuses, in therapeutic circles, the military, and with more groups of various sizes and design than I can remember.

When I reflect back on all that, the clear things for me include these thoughts:

FIRST:  Leadership is a journey, but not necessarily one with a destination at the end … more like an endless spiral.

Leadership can happen in many different environments, in different ways, for different reasons.  Our journey may not be a linear one, or the type that looks great on a résumé.

SECOND:  Leadership sometimes is clearly marked, with titles, descriptions, mandates, and all manner of supporting paraphernalia.

Some of us are fortunate enough to be in well-defined leadership roles.  Others have to carve their leadership role from “scratch”, without the benefit of the pre-defined rules and expectations.

THIRD:  Leadership sometimes comes from a group of people and how they interact.

Sometimes leadership comes from whoever speaks up and takes the initiative.  Leadership is exhibited whenever two people are together.

Now might be a good time to remind everyone that leadership can be a positive or a negative thing.

FOURTH:  Leadership truly is available to anyone, but not equally.

Some people desire and pursue responsibility and authority, while others diligently avoid the same things.   In a specific situation, anyone may be a leader, but the odds are with the person who wants it.  This can be both good and bad.

Wanting something does not equate to being competent to exercise it.

FIFTH:  Following someone else is sometimes the best form of leadership.

“They” say we lead by example and “they” are absolutely right.   How we conduct ourselves within the sometimes complex organizational structure will teach others a bit about true leadership.

You can’t always be at the head of the line or leading the charge.   Nobody has all the abilities that leadership requires.

Growing other leaders involves following them.

NOTE:  I explored the theme of “Followership” in more depth earlier this year by looking at the work of Ira Chaleff.

SIXTH:  Leadership sometimes involves going toward or away from a thing, and sometimes you are just chilling by the side of the trail.

Leadership is often portrayed as an upward movement, but the reality is more like taking a trip … a very long trip, with small children, a torn-up and smudged map from decades ago, and sometimes in a car without air conditioning.

Sometimes you are moving and sometimes you are just waiting … it’s all part of the journey.

Each person’s  leadership journey is different from that of anyone else.

How has YOUR leadership journey developed so far?

(Still) Wondering more and more about whether I’m on the road or stuck in the ditch in the Heartland ….