Charting a Way by Mohau M Molefe

In leading, the one ‘infront’ has a great responsibility: telling those he is leading which way to go. Seems simple, but in essence it is not. A leader in making a decision to say this is the way needs to know personally where the destination is.

How should a leader select the destination or chart the way? Key to this is for the leader to have conviction of why he needs to be leading. This helps him align with everyone he is leading, in effect tying up his convictions. In doing this he is able to identify, going a step further even and accepting that he sees value in taking the people (including himself) where everyone needs to be, the destination.

There are many factors that give cadence to finally defining the destination. I believe that years of leading would have prepared the leader for this point where he sees need and wants to help meet that need: life experience. Take for example: going through similar circumstances previously which the leader could not at the time do anything about but knew that something needs to be done, seeing others drive a certain agenda that he himself saw as meaningful, an interaction with different circumstances and happenings (could be related, but a lot of times unrelated and yet educating the leader on this most current point and of how to handle it); etc. All these experiences, factors educate the leader and allow him to draw on these factors as references for how he is going to define the destination. This goes hand-in-hand with Clarity of Sight.

Remember that the leader needs to say we are going there. This involves seeing what is the ‘real’ status now, what it will the impact of this ‘real’ status be, what will the future be like following the now, what future is most desirable and how to get to the future with what the leaders has in his sights. Remember that both the current and the future is probably very, very hazy to all those the leader is leading, but the leader most of the time has better sight of the now, future scenarios and then what will be the needed solution.

How then does the leader practically chart the way? Well starting at the basics:

  1. The leader identifies: what is the current status (clarity of sight)
    1. What is the real problem(s) faced by everyone?
  2. Looking at the current status, what is it most likely to turn out as
    1. The leader will run several scenarios and give consideration to the most likely scenario
  3. What have been previous ways that he and/or others have used in dealing with this current status
    1. The leader will be giving thought to methodologies, frameworks, outcomes, relevance, impact, etc in assessing these previous ways
  4. What is the desire of those being led, where do they want to be, who do they need to be
  5. What solution can now practically address this/these
  6. Select the most appropriate solution

Let us connect these: very recently I started to realise in one of the organisations that I am a part of that certain decisions being made were going to impact a critical support function we had. Those with me did not perceive this and recognise the need for intervention. No decision had been taken to impact this that had been vocalised so no concern should have arisen based on what was in the public domain. However I could frame what was happening (Clarity of Sight). With some thought on what the impact of those forces, changes and what decisions could follow, I started to initiate some discussions to get a sense of what others were seeing and experience has taught me that when such manoeuvring is taking place, at times the outcome is dire. The sense check was to also make note of the options we have.

For an outcome that would provide us with the same level and actually better support, I needed to very quickly define what we needed, from where and then discuss this with those around me. Most important is to realise that the destination that I had picked, the others did not see it as clearly as I saw it at first, they did not see what was happening currently so clearly, but following lessons with other things in the past, totally unrelated to what was happening, I managed to say: we need to go there!

What is important to note is that the destination does not always get pointed out by the leader. One of those being led can highlight where the leader needs to lead to, this could be a mentor, etc. But the ultimate responsibility of defining the destination will still rest with the leader.

It is important to also note that the destination need not be one that everyone will like. What it needs to be is one that will be the best solution for everyone. It is the leader’s convictions that will help him to say what will be the best solution and earlier I made note that the leader needs to be aligned with the needs of everyone else. By being able to identify with others, the leader is better placed to say what does he see as necessary and will this decision be right for everyone else. These convictions however are never affirmed in isolation. The leader needs to continuously be checking these with others: could be those he is leading, those he leads with as peer leaders, those mentoring him, etc. Defining a destination is a very important aspect of leadership. We lead to help people get where they need to be. As a leader I am not the beholder of all wisdom, so I need the help of others to keep sensitising me to what the best solution will be. However as a leader, I need to define.