The desert ground crumbled beneath my feet with each step along this stretch of the rocky trail. Despite my sturdy hiking shoes, I still slipped and tripped with unexpected frequency as the pebbles and rocks skittered under my feet. I outright stumbled when larger rocks protruded from the trail.
I looked down along this stretch of the trail.
But looking down came at a cost.
The view of the next mountain range was spectacular and every moment my eyes were not on it seemed wasted. The artistically drawn reds, browns and oranges layered upon the mountain range was breathtaking. It’s majestic beauty beaconed. It was hard to take my eyes off of her.
Except for when I slipped.
With each mini-landslide that crumbled beneath me or rock that unexpectedly jutted up from the trail, my attention was immediately diverted back to my feet.
And then I would miss the view, which seemed to change second by second as the late morning sun danced across the neighboring mountains.
The juxtaposition between needing to look down and the need (and desire) to look up is not different from that of leadership. Great leaders need to look down and look up.
First, leaders need to look up and out at the landscape, which includes paying attention to the industry, the marketplace, the competition and any other environmental factors that might make a difference. It also includes opening themselves to a diverse set of ideas and experiences that might prompt creative and innovative ideas. Not unlike actually hiking a mountain.
A critical part of the leader’s role is to keep a solid eye on the road ahead, including being open to new ideas and thoughts that will help keep a competitive edge, whether that be company-wide or in the leader-from-the-side’s specific domain.
Second, leaders need to look down. Leaders need to look down (and not in the pejorative sense) so they know what’s going on under their feet (in the metaphorical sense).
Leaders need to know the current challenges of the people in their organizations. They need to keep a look out for what is working well and what needs improvement. Where people and process are concerned, leaders need to be in the know.
People are counting on them to know what’s going on, at least provisionally, and when they aren’t in the know, their reputation and leadership capital are at risk.
The recipe: .
: One part looking up to see the road ahead.
: One part looking down to see the impact of your decisions.
: Blend together and serve.