|In a prior issue, John told the story about how important ‘WEST’ was to the early wagon-train pioneers, and how that vision of a possibility ‘pulled’ them forward through the dangers and challenges. In this issue, he speaks to the one aspect of leadership that cannot be shifted to others, no matter how gifted the other members of the team are, or how difficult it might be for the designated leader: embodying ‘WEST’ for the organization. The Editor|
Over the years, I have had hundreds of occasions to consult with business owners and senior leaders of very large and very small organizations, often as a coach to them as individuals, and/or as a facilitator of their senior team’s coming together around a clear vision. At this point in my career, things are now crystal clear as to what it takes to lead an effective, successful, and fulfilling human system of any size. These things must be present:
1. A clear, compelling ‘WEST’ that is embraced by everyone.
2. A team of senior leaders with differing gifts and points of view, but who know how to use those conflicts to create better decisions and increased mutual trust.
3. Everyone at every level pulling in the same ‘Westerly’ direction. 4. Simple and useful measures as to how people and teams are doing—that actually get used.
5. Accountability and acknowledgement tied to those measures.
(A quick summary for those of you who missed this concept a few issues back.) When the wagons loaded up and headed out from St. Louis, all people knew was they were headed West. ‘West’ was what the whole thing was about for them— morning, noon and night:
❑ ‘Are we there yet?’
❑ ‘Is this helping us get West?’
❑ ‘How are we coming on the trip?’
Everything got measured against their bone-deep intention and desire to go WEST.
But ‘West’ had to be more than just a direction on a compass. ‘West’ surely must have represented hope, new life, possibility, a fresh start. Something so compelling that people were willing to sell everything but a few possessions, load their precious family members on a wagon, and head out with a group of other hardy souls, all going ‘West.’ Another important point: the trip was not about the wagon. The wagon— absolutely essential—was simply the vehicle that had to get them there. As grateful as they were for having it, and as much attention as they paid to its condition, they did not fall in love with their wagon. They were in love with ‘West.’
The Wagons of Today
What are the ‘wagons’ in your organization? (The programs, products, processes currently in place.) Do they run well? How ‘in love’ are you and your colleagues with them?
Recently, I had a wonderful dinner conversation with the Publisher and Editor in-Chief of a magazine who were exploring a possible strategic alliance between our firms. They were showing me the most recent issue, and extolling its features (which were quite good, IMHO). I must have seemed somewhat reluctant, because one of them asked me what my reservations were. It startled me, as I was actually thinking about my hesitations in that exact moment. (They are both very perceptive guys, BTW, a real plus in my world.)
“Well. . .’ I paused to gather my thoughts. “You have a great magazine. Clear, focused on a specific target group, easy to read, and interesting. But I think you think you’re in the magazine business! From where I sit, the magazine is your wagon, not your ‘West.’ Tell me about your ‘West.’ If the magazine succeeded beyond your wildest dreams, what would be happening in the world that would make your heart sing?’
Immediately, they started in, speaking quickly and powerfully—and even somewhat emotionally—describing the intended impact: organizations being well-led, people looking forward to coming to work, the various client systems unleashing their best effort to change things for the better.
‘OK,’ I said, ‘now we’re talking! Those are things I can really get behind!’ Then we began to talk about how the magazine could become one of several vehicles (‘wagons’) to help individuals and their organizations go ‘West.’
Managing a Westward-Moving Wagon Train
Look back at the beginning of this piece at that numbered list of necessary ingredients. Number 4: Simple and useful measures as to how people and teams are doing (in going ‘West’), and number 5: Accountability and acknowledgement tied to those measures. You had better be able to check on your progress and make sure people are aware of the natural consequences of operating their ‘wagons’ effectively and moving in the right direction—and what happens when they don’t. That’s management. And somebody had better be tending to that, every day if possible. Everyone needs to know ‘How we’re doing.’
Leading a Westward-Moving Wagon Train
But someone needs to be continuously reminding people:
❑ ‘Now, remember: this is where we are headed and why.’
❑ ‘Now, remember, this is where we are headed and why.’
❑ ‘Now, remember: this is where we are headed and why.’
Even though you want everyone in the organization thinking like a leader (recall my saying: ‘Leadership is an attitude, not a position’), some things cannot be delegated. Even though everyone in those old wagon-trains woke up each day thinking about ‘West’ and went to bed thinking about it, too, some single individual respected by them all had to be The One who never wavered, who stood in the reality of ‘getting there’ as if it was already accomplished. They actually stand IN what is ‘West,’ and invite people to join them there. That’s leadership. You can delegate management—in fact, you should—as much as you can. But you cannot delegate leadership. You cannot delegate standing in the possibility your organization is in the world to create. As a leader, you simply must embody ‘West,’ so when members of your team or organization look at you, they can see, and touch, and feel ‘West.’ What is ‘West’ for your place of work? How good a job are you doing as a leader (at whatever level) in embodying that ‘West?’ How can you stand more authentically and powerfully in that place of possibility?
❑ Ready to step into your own personal ‘West’ more fully?
❑ Want to become the leader you are capable of being?
❑ Wondering how to impact those around you with greater grace?
The LDI: Five Questions that Change Everything is designed to do that—and more.
❑ Take a weekend to focus on yourself as a leader—and as a human being (the two are actually profoundly connected).
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In the brief span of a long weekend, using John Scherer’s time-tested principles, you will come away with the tools to accomplish things with people you never thought possible. Don’t miss this opportunity. Join a small group of people just like you, and go forward in your life with greater purpose, power, and peace.
What grads say:
‘Simply a stunning experience.’ Terry Rogers, MD, Director: WA Association for Healthcare Quality, Seattle, WA. ‘Do not take this program if you expect to leave with a new set of tools and your old set of beliefs in tact. Do not take it if you have any fears about examining who you are and why you work, live, and breathe as you do now. Take it as climbers and divers take the heights and depths. Take it in order to know where it is possible to go. . .’ Virginia Robinson, Toronto, Canada
‘I learned more about leadership and change in four days with John Scherer than in my four years at graduate school.’ Mike Hoffman, Founder: WilderNest, Boston, MA.
‘Just do it.’ Claud Balthezard: Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce Leadership Centre, Toronto, Canada