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I opened the box today and found a steering wheel. My attention involuntarily went to the whole “direction of your team/business” kind of attention hole. After climbing out of that one and spending a little more time looking at this particular steering wheel, I realized there is a higher meaning here. It has to do with responsibility. This responsibility is both visionary and of the moment.
The person behind the wheel is looking far forward (and hopefully all around as well…) and has the final destination in mind as well as some kind of map to help her stay on track. Everyone in the vehicle is relying on the driver to get them to the goal safely and as close to on-time as traffic and weather will allow. The driver feels an obligation to not only get everyone there safely and on-time, but also to try to make the intervening time in the car relatively enjoyable.
The responsibility of the moment is one that every driver knows very well. I know that when I’m the one behind the wheel, I’m sensitive to conditions inside and outside the car. Is the heat too high? Is the fan blowing on someone too much? If there is media playing (music or otherwise), is it simultaneously unobtrusive and enjoyable? I work hard to avoid bumps and potholes so the ride is smooth. I watch out for changing traffic, weather and road conditions, constantly calculating how I might keep the journey on track, balancing the elements.
Implications for me as a leader are on both of those fronts. My vision of where I’m going with my team and business needs to be clear and clearly articulated. I need to have the story about the end of the journey and how that might be really be another beginning and not an ending. I can describe it and the journey to get there in such a way that my team and business “get it” and want to go there. It’s exciting, worthwhile, and will be great place to be. After conveying the goal, I need to have a way to get there…the map, GPS, directions, whatever, that will allow me to move forward confidently, especially if the destination is someplace I’ve never been to before.
The responsibility of the moment involves living and leading in the moment. There is an old Latin phrase, age quod agis, that translated means, “Do what you are doing.” To me that has always meant “be in the moment”. Don’t ignore this very point in time where you actually are by being distracted by what could have happened, should have happened, or ought to happen. Planning and learning from the past are critical, but letting them take you out of the moment negates the power of the moment, and we only get so many of them. As a leader, that awareness is key to getting to the destination, whether it is to ship a product, complete a report, or craft a succinct communication (or Tweet…).
Being an authentic leader means balance. It’s hard work, not unlike plate spinning (and just as amazing when done well…), but that’s what elevates the quality of your leadership.