When the road curves, it can seem like a leader lacks vision. But it’s really just…geometry – unless the leader fails to ‘drive’ certain projects as s/he should – because of a lack of courage amid the ambiguity.

“I have enough to do that doesn’t require me to see around the bend in the road,” they might say. “So I’m going to work on what’s ‘known’, first.”

As safe as that might feel, it’s terribly uninspiring leadership.

  • Leaders cannot afford to only work on problems that have easy (and obviously ‘see-able’) answers – it’s guaranteed, career-limiting.
  • Companies cannot afford to have their leaders only work on problems they already know how to solve – it’s guaranteed, profit-limiting.
  • Employees cannot afford to work for companies (or leaders) who refuse to take reasonable risks in problem-solving – it’s guaranteed, success-limiting.

The problem, of course, is that seeing around the bend really is impossible. Which means to get anything done that’s new or different or better – dare I say ‘game-changing’?! – a leader MUST be willing to drive ‘blind’ sometimes – especially at the start of something. Once you get ‘down the road’ a bit, the twists and turns begin to show themselves a bit more readily, but the importance of a leader having ‘vision’ in the very early stages of a new initiative cannot be overstated.

(See what I did there with the double entendre of the word ‘vision’? ‘SEE’ what I did there?!)

So my message to all of you is this:

Don’t evaluate projects in terms of how easy or hard they might possibly be; evaluate them based on how important they definitely are.

Then, based on that importance, figure our how you’ll mitigate the risk of not being sure of all the how-to’s and what-if’s in getting started:

  • Maybe engage more people earlier to get more insight into potential ‘roadblocks’ and key questions to answer – never underestimate the power of collaboration.
  • Maybe conduct some scenario-planning exercises to identify the workarounds and countermeasures you might employ should things start to veer off course – never underestimate the value of knowing how you can respond to whatever you hope never happens.
  • Maybe begin with a pilot program or time-limited trial – never underestimate the benefits of hedging one’s bets.
  • Maybe put some solid control mechanisms and updated processes in place so that you you’ll actually know how things are progressing, before it’s too late – never underestimate the impact of being able to make minor adjustments along the way.
  • Maybe gain more high-level support, commitment, and advocacy – never underestimate the resources that engaged executive sponsorship can bring.

Regardless, don’t let ‘difficult’ undermine ‘important’ – that’s not what leaders do. And it’s definitely not something you want to be known for, either.

Question: What steps do YOU take to better ready yourself (and your team) for what might be around the bend?

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