Leadership from 14,000 feet

As a leader, you know having a compelling vision and actionable steps to fashion that vision is paramount to your organization’s success. Unfortunately, too many leaders and in turn those they lead look at vision as a statement that hangs on the wall. To make the vision meaningful, relevant and compelling, leaders need to back away from their day to day grind, remove the blinders of e-mails, paperwork, meetings, and all activities that would have them mired down in the weeds of their organizations and seek higher ground to gain needed perspective to take their organizations to greater heights.

It is amazing what can happen when you elevate your perspective; the higher the better, because it gives the leader an opportunity to view things panoramically. Too often leaders only see one side, which equates to their day to day activities. A great example is leaders from same organization but different departments. Daily, they are dealing with limited resources, there is an atmosphere of competition for these resources as well as competition in meeting goals and objectives; there is a lack of understanding about the needs of the internal and external customers as well as external challenges; there is no clear alignment between departments and the overall strategy; and communication that would bridge these issues and create collaboration is severely lacking. In short, leadership perspective is lacking and rather than seeking an elevated point of view, they continue to view things from a fixed viewpoint and the changes and behaviors they desire to move the organization forward don’t materialize. Why; because they fail to see them.

The summit of a mountain at 14,000 feet is a useful metaphor, because it proposes one is observing and gaining clarity rather than being hindered by the manic pace of the organization’s activities. At the summit, you can see the expanse of what is before you for 360 degrees, the danger points, the areas of obstruction and those that pave the way to a successful ascent. Here you have a full unobstructed view of the “BIG PICTURE” and equally as important you can identify the vision and steps to get you there.

As a leader, this big picture view gives you the ability to observe what is going right and what is going wrong. You can clearly delineate the paths of success and the ones leading to a dead end or a serious uphill battle. You can ascertain whether the relationships between departments, customers, suppliers, and other key stakeholders are effective or in need of mending. You can survey the resources available and identify redundancies, inefficiencies, and where it makes sense to leverage collaboration, and broaden the utilization of resources. You have the ability to take in all the elements you observe about your organization and implement actions that will lead you closer to your organization’s vision.

The bridge between your people and the vision is clearly articulated and shared action steps. Creating these steps lies in your ability to translate what you see into tangible direction that will attract, motivate and compel your followers to action; action that translates into your collective success. Consider the following to create these meaningful steps:

  • Engage others in solving problems rather than going it alone
  • Create an environment of trust and open communication
  • Seek open and honest feedback about what you are observing before taking action
  • Take the needed time to investigate the root causes of a problem and fix a broken system rather than placing a band-aid on a recurring crisis
  • Be cognizant of the impact of your actions on the atmosphere of the group

In the end, leadership from 14,000 feet represents a mind-set. Your ability to rise above the noise and the grind for just enough time to gain the clarity and perspective needed to see and articulate a vision of where you are and where you need to go.

Paul Martinez is a Colorado Springs based trainer and speaker specializing in leadership training and organizational development. He is also an adjunct executive coach at the Center for Creative Leadership. He can be reached at Paul@ru-dynamicallydriven.com.