Road Signs For Success – October 1, 2008

By Gerald Daniels

When leaders lose their way in the world, their followers get lost as well. People get lost from time to time; it is almost an inevitable part of life. But it always seems a bit more disappointing to be lost while following a leader who has determined a direction that will not get you to your desired or agreed upon destination. That leaders need followers and followers need leaders is a given. In The Top Ten Mistakes Leaders Make, author Hans Finzel provides an excellent perspective on leadership and how not to lead others astray in the world of business. Finzel is the President and CEO of Worldvision, an international organization committed to leadership development. He calls on leaders to stop making the same old mistakes and emphasizes the importance of servant style leadership.

Getting lost in the business world is much like getting lost in the woods with darkness quickly approaching. Panic begins to set in and thoughts of what if a wild animal comes along and tries to eat me set in. Unless you’re prepared with some basic orienteering skills to regain your bearings, the path you choose to get out of the woods will most often lead you in a circular pattern. Thus you will eventually wind up right back in the same place where you first discovered you were lost. To take this a step further, imagine now you are lost with a group of people. Your perspective depends upon whether you are the leader or a follower. If a follower, you no longer have faith in the leader. If the leader, you are about to experience anarchy or rebellion. So it is in the world of business — leaders who lose their sense of direction (purpose), continue to make the same old mistakes and eventually wind up right back in the same place. It is during these times of adversity or misdirection that a catalyst for change has emerged providing the perfect time to go a different direction.

Practical leadership involves some form of service to others, and a willingness to be held accountable for the direction in which the leader chooses to take others. Leading from a servant style perspective is actually one of the best ways to continually evaluate the direction a business is going. Servant style leadership encourages everyone involved in a business endeavor to be actively engaged in the decision making process. This type of leadership reinforces management’s commitment to employees and employees’ commitment to management. Therefore, everyone involved is aware of the direction they are going and of their agreed upon destination. Servant style leadership is like having G.P.S. for your company. It makes it real hard to get lost.

When a leader loses their way it usually involves a series of mistakes that could have been avoided. History both past and present has recorded many instances of business and business leaders that started in one direction and ended up in another. The dire economic straits that stretch from Wall Street to Main Street can all be traced to leaders who probably started out with the best intentions. While being lost and being wrong may be two distinctly different situations they have much in common. The parallel is found in those who have willingly or who have been allowed to charter a course that was more about serving themselves than serving others. In other words it’s like the fox being allowed to assign himself to guard the hen house. Leaders worth following listen and are willing to be held accountable by their followers.

Leaders who make the same mistakes keep going in circles until they find themselves back where they started. Wild animals are the least of their worries. A worse fate awaits — they find themselves with a group of disillusioned and disgruntled followers as darkness approaches.

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