“Human nature is to need a map. If you’re brave enough to draw one, people will follow.” – Seth Godin
Has your GPS ever gotten you lost? I was at a meeting the other day and one of the attendees arrived late. He made the claim that his GPS had told him the building was 400 yards further up the road than it actually was. We quickly forgave him. We can relate. We all follow maps to get where we’re going.
We all need guidance. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone on a trip and blamed the map for getting me lost. It is, of course, the map’s fault. I’m relying on it to guide me. I’ve entrusted myself to it. It is my leader. When it lets me down, it deserves the blame. When Mapquest gets me lost, it isn’t my fault, is it?
Being the Cartographers
Seth Godin, in Poke the Box, tells the story of a researcher who studied what happened to people who were lost in the desert without a map or compass. It turns out, they walk in circles. We as human beings are lost without maps to guide us. That is true in a literal sense…but also in a figurative sense.
Leadership is birthed in times of uncertainty. As leaders, we have a choice. Will we follow maps or will we draw them? People–our employees, suppliers, customers, etc.–are looking to us for guidance. What do we do when someone asks us what they should do? Do we look for a map that someone else has drawn, or do we create a new one?
It’s easier to follow someone else’s example. That way, we can pass the blame if we are lead astray. It isn’t our fault–it’s the map that was handed to us! If, however, we make the decisions, call the shots, and create our own plan, we place all the responsibility on our own shoulders. There is no one to blame, if the guidance turns out poorly, but ourselves.
But, guess what? New worlds were never discovered by sticking with the same old maps. Great leadership is adventurous, seeking discovery rather than conformity. Yes, you might fail, and be held completely responsible. But, on the other hand, you may stumble upon something great that eyes have never seen before. And you’ll be held responsible for that as well.
This is me encouraging you to draw your own maps. Embrace the uncertainty. Your people don’t need recycled directions. They need someone to take a stand and lead them into the great unknown. Will that be you?