Can a 130 km trek in one of the wildest areas of France make you rethink the way you lead?
I certainly didn’t think so.
But, ultimately, it did test my leadership! Humility, team cohesion or being creative… we were not short of situations where leadership skills came in handy.
We often segregate how we do things at work and in life. But take something you do regularly, change the context, and you’ll be rewarded with a new approach and opportunities to rethink the way you lead.
Throughout the week, I had many opportunities to apply my leadership skills in trivial situations (or not).
How? Read on…
Rethink the way you lead… is donkey leadership a thing?
The highlight of the trip was our 2 donkeys, kindly carrying our stuff for the week.
Donkeys are fun and adorable…until they make a decision (and stand their ground). Over time, we learned to understand their rationale (nice patch of grass in sight, too many flies, ear scratching needed or… “it’s not this way”).
Think donkey leadership is a special skill?
To my own surprise, you need strong leadership skills to reach an agreement with a donkey.
– No assumptions
– Observe and understand what’s going on
– Gather some simple facts
– Be curious about what you can learn from the situation
– Be empathetic
In short, accept that humility is the new smart and see what you can learn. Acknowledging that a donkey knows her way better than you do is 100% humility training!
Want to rethink the way you lead? Listen to the other perspectives more often. Can you somehow let go of your view of the world? Can you change your mindset and develop curiosity about why people do what they do and say what they say?
Great leaders are vulnerable and humble. They’re OK with not knowing, and humble enough to learn from anyone.
Rethink the way you lead… teams: together is better
We lost our way a few times (PB: +10 km).
But I can’t recall any moment wasted in blame. Someone indicated the way, others double checked. And at the end of the day nobody’s perfect. This was absolutely the strength of our team of 5 (donkeys excluded – they don’t read maps).
A team can’t decide something and then state it was done by someone in isolation. When “it doesn’t work”, the best thing is to analyse the string of events. Not to investigate who made a mistake.
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If you want to rethink the way you lead and make a real impact, step in when a conflict arises and handle team disagreements. Cut anything that will divert everyone’s attention from 1. a solution and 2. a learning point.
(By the way. We walked an additional 10 km. But, being late, we avoided a massive 2 hour thunderstorm. Thinking of priorities…)
Rethink the way you lead… decisions: stay away from the obvious
Spend a week immersed in a different day to day, and observe the way you go about things.
- Related: What a great boss does differently during the holidays: part 1 (inspire and reset) and part 2 (the mindful leader)
A week in nature sharpens your observation skills; what you see around you, and what’s an indication that you’re on the right (or wrong…) path. This simple fact turned into an eye-opener for me: how often do I jump to conclusions without observing all the data points?
Since then, I’ve decided to be less reactive and explore the way I reach conclusions. Was one of my default thinking patterns involved? Could I explain my decision to a child in a simple way?
What about you? Do you make the effort to collect a few data points, even if the first solution that comes to mind is so obvious? We’re creatures of habit. Our brains work to find the easiest answer. Albeit useful at times, getting into default mode is a missed opportunity to structure the madness and focus better (or encourage others to do so).
The discipline to look at a problem from a fresh perspective is no waste of time. It’ll reveal a creative solution that was not accessible to you before, because of perceived urgency, stress or cognitive overload.
- Infographic: 13 hobbies to try to boost your creativity
It’s known that being busy can kill your creativity. Why don’t you rethink the way you lead by accepting that a problem can be resolved in different ways? Not only is it a great thing to role model, but it comes in handy when you try to embrace innovation or change.
Making informed decisions in a brand new environment sounds like practical training to rethink the way you lead!
I ended my trek with a few good resolutions: challenge assumptions, be suspicious of the obvious, and see through the small decisions I make without valuable data points.
I encourage you to experiment with it. Be brave and take risks safely; accept that a different path might not the most efficient, but can trigger a new way of thinking.
Not everything we have to do is important and urgent. A good leader knows when an opportunity to learn shows up, and values it above extreme optimisation.
What did an unusual adventure teach you? Share your story in the comments!