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Leader Clear Paths (and Shovel Snow)

Leader Clear Paths (and Shovel Snow)

Leadership Spokane is committed to the truism that leaders always learn. This week, our 2017 adult leaders met for Education day and focused on the opportunities and challenges in primary, secondary and post-secondary education. I was intending to write on the importance of leadership in primary education but our Education Day was cut short by a large snowstorm. The next day, I had to spend half a morning shoveling snow, a lot of snow. For those reading this blog away from the Inland NW, suffice it to say, we have had to shovel a lot of snow since December. We haven’t seen the ground since then and temperatures have remained below freezing most of the time. Has this winter experience improved me as a leader? Hard to say other than reaffirming the importance of maintaining a positive attitude to keep going…yes, challenges do make us stronger. As I shoveled this past weekend, I did reflect on how important it is to have leaders who clear paths.
When walking into a situation, a leader is responsible for looking ahead and thinking through the way forward. I truly believe there are often many solutions to problems but some solutions are better or easier than others. The leader is responsible for defining and then clearing the path. Randy Conley in his October 2014 blog Leading With Trust reminds us: “Once the place has been identified, leaders need to clear the path. The path is the “how” – the strategies, tactics, and goals the team is going to employ to reach its destination. A common leadership pitfall is thinking that identifying the place and declaring the grand vision of the future automatically means people will know how to get there. Identifying the place is the easy part; clearing the path is where the hard work takes place. Leaders need to get their hands dirty by working alongside their team members to develop project plans, chart milestones, clarify roles and responsibilities, and monitor progress along the way. Clearing the path is easier when more people are involved so engage your team in developing the battle plan.” Well said….
Snow shoveling is a necessary part of life living in the northern tier. Besides it being the law, avoiding it causes the snow to turn to ice, to harden, to be packed down, making it harder to handle. There is also better ways to shovel and worst ways. Starting in the middle and working to the edges helps to not have to repeat rows. Likewise, leadership in an organization is necessary and getting in front of challenges sooner rather than later is the better way to deal with problems. There is also an art form to accomplishing projects as well. Leaders with experience often time are the best artists for clearing a path. Every organization has formal and informal leaders. Look around your team--there are always leaders who step up and clear paths when hardships hit.
A May 2014 200-part Leadership series know as Leadership Caffeine argues how vital it is for leaders to find the way…”your core job is to help clear the path for those doing the heavy lifting. You’ll be amazed at the results.” The blog recounts five diagnostic questions to remind you of your need to clear the path:
1. Have I shared my priorities from my boss with the team and asked for their input on how to meet those priorities?
2. Am I avoiding the tendency to ask my team to do more with less in the name of productivity?
3. Am I working with team members to identify and eliminate non-value-add activities, including excessive status reporting, unnecessary meetings and low-priority project commitments?
4. Am I genuine in my efforts to secure added resources where needed to meet our priorities?
5. Am I providing ample visibility and kudos to the team members helping move the needle on our key priorities?
So in conclusion, during this Inland Northwest winter, the snow shoveling continues…it must for us to get out of our houses and driveways. Leaders are similarly always called to clear paths. It is the leader’s mandate to find ways forward. As winter continues, ask yourself the Leadership Caffeine questions. Are you shoveling forward or sitting on the inside looking out the windows waiting for someone else to step in and clear paths? Hopefully it is the former because despite the groundhog’s procrastination that winter is barely done, our winter continues. Leaders shovel snow. Leaders clear the path.
A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way. ~ John C. Maxwell