Sometimes I envy those who are satisfied traveling alone on life’s journeys. How easy is that? You get to choose where you want to go, which route to take, what pace you want to travel. You don’t have to convince anyone else. You don’t have to build consensus.
I often think about this in business terms. One of the reasons that I’ve been involved with six startups is for this very reason. I’m confident that I understand developing market trends, especially around digital marketing. I set the vision and off I go. Along the way, I take on partners and companions but the vision has already been set and people are joining the journey because they agree with the business plan.
Much more difficult is changing the direction of your journey midstream with a new vision. Now, you must convince people who didn’t initially sign up for the “new” vision. It has to be compelling and yet simple enough for everyone to understand. You need to be patient, persuasive, thick-skinned and articulate. And in many cases, you have to admit that the original direction that was set was wrong. Basically, you need to be a leader, which is hard work.
I respect those effective managers who are able to implement a new strategic direction that keep large organizations viable. They move people, which is the only way to move “mountains”. This article, “Good Leaders Acknowledge What Can’t Be Done” (Harvard Business Journal), explains how “even when things clearly aren’t going right, strong psychological tendencies keep the average leader from admitting it and correcting course.”
The ability to acknowledge that a new strategy is needed is in of itself quite a unique skill. Then, to course-correct and effectively take a whole oragnization on a new journey would be showing superior leadership skills. Think about all the great corporate turnarounds today (Starbucks, IBM, Apple, etc), and the companies that need new strategic direction right now but are struggling to make changes (i.e. publishing companies). The difference is in the leadership.