The Art of Being Followed: Leaders: Do You Know Where You’re Going?
“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.
“I don’t much care where–” said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.
“–so long as I get SOMEWHERE,” Alice added as an explanation.
“Oh, you’re sure to do that,” said the Cat, “if you only walk long enough.”
(Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Chapter 6)
(The above quote is often mistakenly referred to as: “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.” But this line is not in the Alice in Wonderland books.)
The above scene from Alice in Wonderland offers wonderful food for thought as Alice contemplates her future. There is much truth to the cliché’ “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there” (Anonymous, n.d.). As leaders, we must take time to understand the responsibility we have to our followers. We must know where we’re going—to have a vision of the future; and the ability to set a path (goal setting) –the plan to get us there.
Remember the Jigsaw Puzzle Principle from? We know that putting the puzzle together is easier if we know the picture on the top of the puzzle box (Kouzes & Posner, 1987). Leaders have to have this picture in their minds, this vision of where they want to take their organization—and their followers. Once they have this vision, then they must plan their strategy—their goals in how to get them there.
Think of this vision as the map that a leader has in their GPS for their organization. This map offers the picture that ‘maps out’ the strategy with step-by-step turns or directions that the leader provides to their managers to help keep the organization moving in the right direction and on the right path.
The leader needs to know what change is needed, when to implement this change and how these specific steps (turn-by-turn directions) will help get each person (puzzle piece) of the organization to this final destination. Remember that a leader has to have this picture in their min before they can begin. What does your vision look like?
Many people use the concept of SMART goals to help measure their success of this journey. SMART is an acronym where each letter represents a step in the process. First, goals must be Specific (to know exactly who will be doing what and when they will be doing it), Measurable (how will you know when you get there?), Attainable (is this possible?), Realistic (can the organization achieve this?), and goals must be Timely (when will the organization reach the final goal?). When each of these elements are part of the leader’s GPS, a more effective outcome can be expected because the leader knows exactly where this journey will take them and their organization. They already know what the end result looks like.
Once the leader creates this picture and the map of how to get there, the leader simply shares this information—both their vision and their directions—with their followers. The leader’s role is to ensure that everyone is going to the same place at the same time using the best techniques to get there.
Do you know where you’re going and how best to get there?
Kouzes, J. M., & Posner, B. Z. (1987). The leadership challenge How to get extraordinary things done in organizations. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Publishers.
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