Thursday, November 03, 2020

Right Direction

The primary task of any leader is to set the group's direction and see that it's maintained. Like the captain of a ship, it's his or her responsibility to set the course.

Direction isn't the same as vision, mission or purpose. The first two are ideals: mental images of what can be achieved. To stick with the nautical metaphor, they're the port the ship is heading for and the justification for the voyage. Purpose answers the question "why bother?"

Direction is about how to get there. It's one of the principles of Slow Leadership because it takes perseverance as well as understanding. The captain of our imaginary ship knows she has to sail west, say, but also has to hold that course despite currents, storms, reefs and other obstructions. Sometimes she must change bearing to stay on the true course. Sometimes the course is lost and she must figure out how to return to the correct heading.

Whatever happens the captain must keep the right direction in mind, and ensure the crew do so too. It's the same in business. Leaders need always to remember where the business or the group are headed, whatever temporary distractions push them off course.

Anyone who's worked in an organization for more than a few years probably knows the destructive effect of constant changes of direction. Those initiatives announced with fanfares and drum rolls that are forgotten six months later. The continual emergencies, as the organization lurches from one fashionable "solution" to its business needs to another. The constant hiring of fresh consultants to provide the direction the corporate leadership cannot. And how each fresh "restructuring" undoes any benefit from the last.

Much of the blame for this lies with leaders who rush into ill-cnsidered actions, simply because they feel they must be seen to be doing something.

Don't join them. Thinking, reflecting and considering in depth is doing something – something essential. Choose your direction carefully and stick to it until you achieve what you wanted. That's Slow Leadership in action.

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