Learning to Lead

Written on December 1st, 2010 by

I have spent my life learning to be the best at the things I do. It is a constant and ongoing effort. I started by having an initial destination, but no way to get there. I learned to drive. Then as I discovered more destinations I wanted to visit, I learned to become a better driver. I wanted to be able to get there as soon as possible. Sometimes that meant taking new routes, driving over different terrain, or in extraordinary weather. I became a skilled driver. Eventually, others wanted me to take people with me to my desired destinations. However, they were not the driver I was. They did not know the way. They had been told of the next grand location, but did not understand the path to get there. I was capable of figuring it out. Thus, I was asked to help them get there. Unfortunately, they quickly fell behind me and lost the path. I needed them to complete my journey. I found myself going back to look for them and point them in the right direction again. Showing them the way was not enough. It turned out the other drivers did not know how to drive as well as I did. They could not follow me. Some of the paths I chose, they could not traverse. Not only did they need to know the way, they needed to be taught how to drive too. I do not know how to teach people to drive. I only took the time to learn how to drive myself. Since teaching people how to drive is becoming one of the things I do, I need to learn how to do it as best I can. Leading people requires far more skill than making the journey myself. I have to understand the driving skills of each driver following me. Can they drive in rain? Can they drive on gravel? What kind of car do they drive? Is it a front-wheel drive vehicle? Is it a 4×4? This determines the route we can take. Some locations cannot be reached without teaching them new driving skills. We cannot reach an isolated mountain location with only a gravel road as an entrance unless the drivers are capable of navigating mountainous terrain on gravel roads. If they need to learn the skill, I need to know how long it will take them to learn it. Is it reasonable to reach a destination over a mountainous gravel road in three months if they do not have any experience with gravel or mountains? Perhaps I need to take them to slightly less desirous location that only requires the ability to drive on gravel. This would allow me to spend three months making the journey while teaching them about gravel roads. We can follow it up with a second journey to understand what it is like in mountains. It may require us to take six months to get to our final destination, but it may prevent a bad accident along the way. The bad accident could set us back even further if they are kept in a hospital for twelve months. There is a lot to consider when leading others to a destination I could reach myself without much fuss. Why do I need to lead others to a common destination? I cannot do everything by myself. There simply is not the time. If we are transporting resources to the new spot, I may have to make many journeys to get everything to the final location. By then, it could be too late. If I lead others, they can help transport. They could also begin to make trips without me. Maybe someday they would lead others. Our overall productivity increases as I teach others my craft. I wanted to go somewhere. I learned to get there. Others want the ability to get to the same location. I need to understand their skills along with how well they can learn new skills to plot a course we can all take to accomplish the journey in the shortest amount of time possible. Learning to lead is not easy. I suspect I will be working at it for a long time. After all, I spent 23 years learning to drive, and I am still learning new techniques to this day. The best advice I have so far is tell people where you are going, tell them how you intend to get there, and then help them get there.

Side Note: I am a software developer. I currently am leading a team of six to eight developers depending on the day. We need to learn the latest technologies and methodologies to produce quality software in a cost effective, yet timely, manner. All that being said, I have been playing a lot of Gran Turismo 5 lately on the Playstation 3. Thus, I spend a lot of time analyzing how I and others on the road drive. I thought I would combine the two to explain my latest feelings and insights. No matter where you go in life, never forget how you got there. I got to where I am in life by working hard and playing harder. I enjoy making software, but I will always make time for playing videogames.

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