Follow the Road or Hit the Road? A Courageous Leadership Choice.

Do you recognise this situation?

For two days you and the rest of your leadership team have spent a very inspiring session on a beautiful location outside the office about the future of your organisation. You really got in contact with why you are here for and painted a picture for an attractive future. The energy after the two days is high. Now you have pinned a point on the horizon that will guide the organisation into the right direction…

The next days however you’re confronted with reality. The people in your organisation clearly didn’t go the session, they’re not as excited as you are, and it seems that the gap between the vision and daily reality has only grown. Not even taking into account the full inbox you have to deal with after being two days out of the office.

And as the daily reality gets more and more disconnected with the vision (or strategy, or ambition) of your organisation, you find yourself less connected with either or both of them as well. Which leads to the following dilemma:

“How to lead my people if I’m not inspired myself anymore?”

Dealing with a fundamental leadership dilemma

The above struggle is a very valid one, and an issue that arises often in the organisations I work with, and I bet in others as well.

About a year ago I was confronted with this same question. Although I was facilitating great projects with great companies, I had the feeling that I had reached a dead end. The energy that I got from doing projects was fading and I had to compensate a lot of the effortlessness I was used to with will-power, which was hard work. As a result I didn’t feel like reaching out anymore, do any marketing, or start up conversations with potential clients, because I knew that would lead to more of the same.

So how could I lead my clients towards a viable future, if I wasn’t inspired myself anymore? How to ‘charge’ myself?

Making a choice

This leadership dilemma is really about making a choice. Basically I found three options to choose from:

  1. Follow the road; choose to live fully in my current organisation and do whatever is needed to transform the issue.
  2. Hit the road; pull the plug and choose to leave the organisation, and live a full life somewhere else.
  3. Do nothing; leave everything as it is, keep the status quo intact and switch to survival mode.

Follow the road

This choice requires high commitment, which is not something that is for granted; you will be confronted by the consequences.

When I decided to address the dilemma I was facing, at first I didn’t know what to expect. I started with a personal development traject to clarify obstacles along the road, to explore what needs to be done and to confront me with my desires, goals, and motivation and with the gap between those and my reality.

At one moment last June the penny dropped, and my energy started to flow. It became clear to me that what really makes me happy as a father and leader is to use my experiences in organisations for a world that would make the children of our children and the generations to come also happy.

By giving the future a voice in my approach to address my clients’ problems, and to explore what is viable in organisations – and to further build on that – I can contribute to a sustainable world.

To follow the road requires courage, openness, and vulnerability to sit with your team and have a look at everything that is. Facing the gap between vision and reality. Without opinions, blaming, or justification. Just exploring the facts that define the gap, and being open to identify and knock over existing paradigms when needed.

And then together start creating a new context in which the vision can become alive. Where everybody is focused and aligned on the viable elements of the organisation. To create an organisation that is connected with its vision and ambition. An organisation that would be approved by the future.

The only question is: can you do this, and do you really want to do this? If so, make the choice, go for it, and enjoy the rollercoaster ride!

Hit the road

If your answer to the above question is negative, a very powerful choice is then to hit the road. There is nothing wrong with pulling the plug and leave, as long as you make the choice consciously and don’t wait till things bleed to death. It requires courage both to say yes and to say no to the task to connect your organisation with your vision.

I’m still not as good as a I want to say no to something, but the moments I do I notice the enormous power that gets released afterwards. For every door I close, new doors open with opportunities that are much more in line with where I want to be.

Do nothing

Not choosing is also a choice. If you do nothing, leave the situation as it is, and let the gap between the vision and reality grow wider, you chose for option three. The result is probably that not only you will shift to survival mode, but the people around you as well. The moment when leadership is walking away from the task to keep their organisation connected with the vision and ambitions, they start losing credibility and trust. What you’ll be left with is an organisation where people work too hard, too individual, and too unfocused. Unfortunately a lot of organisations fit this description, still hoping they can solve their problems with next year’s offsite vision session…

When you recognise yourself to be in the last situation, remember you can always, at any moment in time, make another choice.