You take the high road and I’ll take the low road
I wouldn’t start from here at all!
You’ll not want to go that way! That’s a barmy way to get there.
I had not long moved into the area where I now live, and I was on the phone with a friend. We were planning to meet up somewhere and I was trying to understand where that was. Now, this was back in the days before SatNav when people used to navigate using maps that didn’t auto-update.
“Ah, if I was going there, I wouldn’t start from here at all!”
Well, I was seeking to fill in my mental map and start by locating the destination so that I would work out a travel plan, and my friend was way ahead of me, and since he knew where I live he had the entire route mapped out in his head already.
I had picked a location near to where we would be meeting and I said, “So if I started from Stoke Station, which way would I go from there.” Well, it turns out that the best route would take me nowhere near Stoke Station, but it was a clear landmark that I knew well, so in my mind, it was a great place to start from to locate the destination.
How many times does that happen in life – we are chatting with someone who has quite a different mental picture of the problem, and so the solution to that problem looks really quite different. I’m reminded of the old Scottish folk song with a chorus that goes:
Oh! ye’ll take the high road and I’ll take the low road,
And I’ll be in Scotland afore ye;
But me and my true love
Will never meet again
On the bonnie, bonnie banks of Loch Lomond.
~ Vocal Melodies of Scotland, 1841
It’s actually quite a sad tale, and there several different interpretations as to the origins, however in some circles, it’s frequently used as the final piece of music played at the end of an evening of revelry and fun. The reason I mention it, however, is simply that for most things in life there is more than one way of finding a solution.
Some of us, for example, would say that it doesn’t matter so much how you get where you’re going, it matters more who you go with. Others may say the most important thing is to get the job done and to get there on time, and we can enjoy ourselves once we get there.
When leading a project or group the same thoughts can surface: is it more important to get the job done, or to enjoy the company of those you’re doing it with? Well, of course, the answer is that both are important and the most effective solution includes elements of both. Now the difficulty is that most of us are more naturally inclined to one approach or the other. Some of us love to focus on the interaction and relational aspects, and others are laser-focused on the outcome, the result. One would say, “Well we made it, although it’s a shame we lost some of the team along the way”, and others would say “We had an absolute blast, although it’s a shame we didn’t quite make it all the way.”
Quite a lot has been written about this subject in the popular personality profiling method developed initially by William Marsden and further developed by others and is often summarised as the DISC theory (see “Who do you think you are”). A key element in this theory is to consider whether a person is primarily people focused or task focused. In leadership terms, these two, seemingly opposing, tendencies have been explained and put into a leadership context, and they are well described in the “five levels of leadership” model.
Level 1: Position – based on Rights
Level 2: Permission – based on Relationship
Level 3: Production – based on Results
Level 4: People Development – based on Reproduction
Level 5: Pinnacle – based on Respect
~ John Maxwell
(Developing the Leader Within You)
Maxwell has just re-released his first best seller entitled “Developing the Leader within you” some 25 years after its initial publication. With the original version having sold over 2 million copies, this new version is some 80% revised and includes a couple of new chapters. The first chapter, however, is largely unchanged and has stood the test of time. This is “The Definition of Leadership: Influence”. There are many examples of John teaching this principle and one delivered recently has been shared on YouTube from a Chick-fil-A Conference Simulcast event.
John C Maxwell – Leadership Is Influence
A powerful teaching on leadership @ Chick-fil-A Conference!
I tried an exercise suggested in John’s book and you may wish to do a similar one, and it’s this: Why not consider some of the people around you and determine the level of influence you are at with each one.
Levels two and three are where most people would find themselves, and as we see in the DISC theory most people are either people focused and enjoy level two, or task focused and thrive at level three. Since our natural tendency is usually in either one or the other then that’s where many people find themselves stuck without some intentional intervention. In order to develop beyond level three, a leader needs to recognise the missing naturally occurring characteristic and be intentional about developing in that area, in order for them to develop to the next level.
Maybe as we enter the festive season this would be a great time to reflect on our natural strengths and consider what we need to do to be intentional about developing our leadership potential. One way to help with that is to check out a free leadership self-assessment which can be found at MaxwellLeader.com.
Have a great Christmas!
About Roger Fairhead
Roger is a leadership specialist delivering Leadership for Business Achievement through Speaking, Training and Coaching to business leaders and entrepreneurs.
“He is articulate, tracks complex issues with ease and has an incredible gift for raising pearls of wisdom out of the murky depths of people and process.” His passion is to help people to learn effective leadership skills to lead their teams to capitalize on their strengths and passions to realize their dreams.
Leadership for Business also invests into the dreams of families in the world’s underserved communities to offer them small loans that empower them to invest in their future, to provide for their families and give back to their communities.