Recalculating Photo

Navigation systems make me crazy. When I am subjected to them, I argue with them on a regular basis. I tell my sons (to no avail) to look at a map before they take a trip, so they at least have some idea of the route they should be taking rather than just blindly following some electronic voice. Alas, I fear we are training people to willingly relinquish their right to make independent decisions all in the name of convenience. (Think I’m over-reacting? I’ll remind you of that the next time your navigation systems directs you to a dirt road that dead-ends in the middle of no where.)

And it’s not just 20-somethings who are drawn in by the allure of having someone else chart the course for them. It seems I am encountering more and more leaders who claim they have “no choice” but to follow the path laid out for them by some external body. Really?!?

As long as I am driving the car, “recalculating” is always an option. Sure there are plenty of oversight bodies, contractors, other organizations, customers, and even well-intentioned supporters who are more than happy to tell me, sometimes quite emphatically, the route we should be taking. Too often, however, that path serves their purposes, not necessarily those of my organization or those we serve.

Part of being a leader is mapping out the route you will take. Depending on your goals, that may mean choosing an interstate, a small two-lane highway or, much to the consternation of navigation systems, going where there is no road and blazing a new trail. Leadership is all about recalculating. There is no way some little black box (or other external advisor) can automatically factor in all the variables that you need to consider when making a decision for your organization. Navigation systems might be helpful in small spurts — you are hopelessly lost and need to get back to a recognizable road, or are looking for a tiny side street — but for the long haul, it is your responsibility as a leader to chart the course.

When we don’t take the time to consciously choose our preferred route — whether for expediency, or out of fear, or because we think someone else has more expertise — we can end up miles off course without even knowing it. People may say you “have” to do X because of this trend or prediction or new rule. Well, you should respond to the trend or prediction or rule, but in your case Y might be a much better/more efficient/more effective way to get there. Recalculate!

Presumably, you are in a position of leadership because of your ability to make good decisions, because you can assess the landscape before you and identify the best way to reach your destination. Are you really willing to abdicate that responsibility, to go on autopilot, because . . . what . . . it seems easier, like more of a sure bet?

News flash — sure bets seldom are. Maybe it’s time the grab the wheel and start recalculating.

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