Leadership quests

A senior leader recently described navigating his organisation as a quest. He talked about setting off on a journey with a specific goal or task, and along the way experiencing all sorts of unexpected twists, turns, discoveries and rare Pokemon to capture*.

Perhaps this rings true to you?

You think you need to meet with three people to get their input, and then you discover there are four other stakeholders, so you wrangle everyone’s calendar and manage to meet with them before they introduce you to two more. One of them is on leave for a week, so you set up some time for when they’re back and in the meantime fill out a template you discovered in your travels. Once you’ve finally met with the 9th person you discover the template is obsolete and there’s already another process that someone set up to eliminate the need to meet with so many people, so you file it away for next time and forge ahead, trying to make sense of the 9 different pieces of feedback you received.

This kind of quest sounds a lot like leadership in 2023. Because when it comes to being a leader there is no perfect map. No one ‘right’ way to lead or perfect process to follow. Instead, leaders are dropped into situations every single day and forced to figure it out. We’re constantly on quests, without knowing what might happen.

So without a map, what do we do?

Well, even in 2023 I believe there’s still room to use a compass as a metaphor. That’s right, I’m doing it. A good old-fashioned compass. Only, instead of North, East, South and West, we get to choose skills, behaviours and postures that will help us navigate our quest. Ones that are human and transferrable, no matter the situation we find ourselves in.

I’ve argued Humility, Empathy and Curiosity are some such skills, though, of course, there are others. Kindness, Compassion and Decisiveness, for example.

The exact skills matter less than the fact you get to decide, with intention: How will you show up on this quest? What real, human skills will you call on?

*I made that last bit up as someone who grew up watching Pokemon. Gotta catch ’em all.