4 Lessons in leadership from a 2400 mile road trip

I’ve been absent from this website for the past couple of weeks (but then you knew that already from the lack of new articles – at least I hope you noticed). First, I flew to Reno for a 4 day leadership conference sponsored by SCORE. Then, there was a flight to Phoenix where we picked up a rental truck and drove it to central Arizona. After loading the truck and driving back to Phoenix, the truck was parked when I made a quick trip by plane to southern California and back. Finally, we climbed into the cab of the truck and headed east on I-10. Four days and nearly 2400 miles later, we’re back in Florida.

True enough, in today’s modern vehicles it is simple enough and relatively easy. The truck we rented was nearly new so we didn’t expect mechanical problems. And it was air conditioned and equipped with comfortable seats. Then there is the American Interstate Highway System which provides high speed roadways with limited access for efficiency and economy.

So, let me make 4 applications to our role and responsibilities as leaders.

1. To get somewhere you really need to know where it is you are going. This may seem obvious but too often it is not emphasized. I knew that at the end of the journey was an appealing place. If there is no destination, your life is little more than a pleasure trip. Indeed, most people live precisely that way. There is no destination, no purpose, no vision, no meaning. They just live exploring this attraction and that. Leadership is measured by more than short trips. It is measured in long journeys taken to reach far off destinations.

2. When you understand where it is you are ultimately heading for, you can begin to plan incremental destinations. Few of us can see the big picture and remain motivated in pursuit of it We need more visible, more immediate mile markers to measure progress by. 2400 miles is a long, long trip and the drive times are long and relatively uneventful. My GPS device tells me how many miles there are to the destination. I knew from entering the destination at the beginning of the journey the total miles, that feature helped me countdown the miles. Seeing the miles reduce prompt feelings of success and achievement.

3. Adjustments are often necessary. Our travel was interrupted or slowed by traffic congestion, road repairs, and bad weather. Some things you can foresee and plan for, most you cannot. No trip goes without some adjustment.

4. Leaders do not merely put in hours, they set goals and reach them. There is one main factor that separates leaders from followers. Leaders make progress and stay at it as long as it may take. Followers put in their hours and then go home. I knew that if we were to reach our destination in four days, I would need to cover a minimum of 600 miles each day. To cover fewer than that in one day would mean a longer drive the next. Leaders make schedules, set goals, and do what has to be done to reach them. Our effectiveness is not measured in hours spent but in progress made.

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