What We Can Learn From A Well-Travelled Path

On a visit to the Marlborough Sounds region in 2020, I had the opportunity to walk the Cullen Point track close to Havelock. I really enjoy the opportunity to get out and explore these special parts of New Zealand. The environment, space and fresh air is always thought-provoking and it is amazing how much clarity and perspective you can gain getting out of your comfort zone and back to basics!

Like any journey we undertake whether it’s work or leisure related,  it’s important to plan and prepare and identify any potential risks. On this tramp my greatest risk turned out to be it the weather! A mantra and approach I used when leading involved planning for the worst and hoping for the best. This way of operating allowed me to assess and plan for a wide range of ‘what if’ scenarios.

While I was walking I continued to make connections between my tramp and environment and my leadership path. Looking at the condition of this track, you could tell it had been well used. There were plenty of ruts, tree roots and crevices to dodge as well as plenty of mud after recent rain. You could see that people had formed alternate paths to navigate their way ahead in order to avoid getting stuck. I certainly did! I think leadership can be like this. When the path we are going down becomes challenging, we often need to stop, reassess and look at new ways to weave our way through these tricky patches.

At the beginning of this article, you will have seen a photo of a canopy of ferns. These canopies continued to appear along the track.  I could imagine stopping and seeking shelter underneath them if it was stormy or pouring down with rain which reminded me how important it is to stop and seek ‘shelter’ when we faced with challenges. This does not mean avoiding issues or shirking responsibility – it’s more about taking time to pause, reflect and then plan next steps as opposed to rushing in and making a decision quickly because you feel pressured to do so. When facing complexity – additional planning can ensure you get the best outcome – the pathway to get there may just look a little different!

At different stages of the journey, the density of the bush created a sense of darkness and shade. However, as I ventured along, you could often see openings ahead where the sun was shining through and the light was appearing. Sometimes when we are leading we can feel in the dark, and seeing the light ahead can be difficult. The point here is, there is always a clearing ahead where the light brings clarity and reasoning. We do however need to continue looking forward and being optimistic.

When you are leading, it can be hard to consistently predict what is ahead just like walking a new and unknown track. Having a growth mindset allows us to approach new learning and pathways differently. As I discovered, often around the corner, is the most amazing vistas imaginable and sometimes you just have to navigate differently to get there.

Finally, the fantail that accompanied and guided me most of the way, reminded me of the importance of guides and companions when we are leading or on journeys of discovery. We need these guides and coaches to help us navigate through difficult and challenging parts. Most importantly, we need to be open to being guided – even as leaders. 


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