This post is by Mike Henry Sr., founding instigator of the Lead Change Group, where they’re instigating a leadership revolution. He’s @mikehenrysr on Twitter and is also active on LinkedIn.

Leadership is changing. It used to be that your job title was enough, and in many organizations today, title still rules. But these very organizations bemoan problems such as disengaged employees and high turnover. People in these environments simply go through the motions and live for the weekend.

Leadership is about ideas. For a leader to make an impact, their ideas must move people along to their destination.

Ideas are paths. People see life as a journey. How we spend our time either moves us along to where we want to go or it distracts us from our ultimate objective. As a leader, your idea is part of our journey. Leader, will your idea take us where we want to go?

Leaders are guides. Your project, business operation or idea is simply a path; a way for others to get to their destination. Do you want to expand your leadership impact? Show people how your idea gets them to their destination, quickly and safely. Mark the path well and plan around obstacles. We will travel your path if it helps us get to our destination.

There are five types of paths. Let’s continue the path analogy to look at your idea. Will people take it? Is your idea worth the gas?

  1. Cul-de-sac ideas: Does your idea go anywhere? Ideas that only benefit you or a small group of people are like culs-de-sac, which literally means “bottom of the bag.” Your idea may be very special to you, but if no one else can get where they’re going with your idea, it’s a dead end. We won’t even turn down that road because we know there’s no outlet.
  2. City street ideas: Your idea is a destination for a few, and they’ve bought property and built houses. Because the kids are playing and the dogs are loose, the speed limit is low and there are a number of 4-way stop signs or stop lights along the way. Only a few people can get to their destination on this street, so only a few take it.
  3. Thoroughfare ideas: These ideas are broad, and the destinations are many. Many of us are “going the same direction” but not to the same destination. Watch for people who “drive alongside you” but change lanes at the last minute, sometimes without a turn signal. We can get where we want to go on this road, but it’s going to take a lot of time and focus.
  4. State highway ideas: These are great ideas; many of them have been around a long time. These ideas were built in a simpler time. They can’t handle today’s traffic. There are no passing lanes, speed zones and speed traps to keep us from moving quickly.
  5. Superhighway ideas: These ideas serve many. People agree to certain limitations to share this road. These ideas make or break a destination or a city. If your destination lies along a superhighway, people will travel farther to save time. Huge communities are served by superhighway ideas.

Remember, ideas are paths and leaders are guides. We each choose our own path. But great ideas get many closer to their own destination. Expand your leadership impact. Have a great path, mark the path well and make sure your idea leads to an attractive destination.

Image credit: mattjeacock via iStockPhoto.com

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15 Responses to “Does your idea lead to a dead end or a superhighway?”

  1. susanmazza says:

    Clever analogy Mike. Love this statement – "Ideas are paths and leaders are guides." If you are the leader you will certainly draw from the many ideas of others, yet you are the one who chooses which path to take – you provide a great context for assessing the ideas and choosing which one provides the best path,

    • Mike Henry Sr. says:

      Thanks for the comment Susan. I just kept thinking about another post related to this as well, and that's what to do when you find that after following someone else's idea, you're farther from your destination. We may need to keep this one going a bit. Thanks again.

  2. Mike Henry Sr. says:

    Great 6th idea Shawn. The desitination could have also been part of the analogy too. On-ramp roads connect ideas. We have a number of toll roads here in Oklahoma too and I had spent a bit of time trying to include those as well. Thanks again.

  3. Dan Rockwell says:

    Mike,

    To use your analogy, we hire guides because they take us where we want to go.

    Skillful leaders create alignment of values, mission, and vision.

    Thanks for a memorable and instructive illustration.

    Cheers,

    Dan

    • Mike Henry Sr. says:

      Thanks Dan. Sometimes I think skillful leaders facilitate that alignment, or enable it. But you're right, when they're aligned energy flows and we get where we want to go. Thanks again.

  4. I love the analogy, Mike!!

    Leaders should also look for Detour or Roadblock signs….and determine if they need to honor the detour or decide the the road is still safe and it's worth the risk to continue on! We will all face people who want to detour us and our ideas. As leaders and guides on that path, we need to be able to decipher which is the best route!

    Well done, Mike!

    • Mike Henry Sr. says:

      I had difficulty with the analogy because there are a number of signs that we need to pay attention to and a number of obstacles and challenges we encounter on the way. Sounds like a couple of follow-up posts are in the works. Thanks for the comment.

  5. Mike,

    I love the analogy and it led me to think about people I meet in life who "avoid the superhighway" and take the side streets instead – because they see the risks associated with the superhighway as being too great.

    A leaders inspires others by showing them a vision of the superhighway that is compelling and aligns with their own personal purpose and strengths, making it the path they want to travel!

    All the best,
    Lisa Petrilli

    • Mike Henry Sr. says:

      I remember when living in Atlanta, knowing a couple of people like that too. I think some people won't do the work to get comfortable with the speed. When my kids were just learning how to drive, on their out-of-school days, I'd ask them to drive downtown to pick me up for lunch. We need to stretch ourselves to get comfortable with the different types of roads so we're capable of choosing the best one to reach the destination. Otherwise, the trip becomes more about our fear and less about the destination.

      Thanks for the great reminder. Mike…

  6. Interesting analogy, Mike. I wonder how creative imagination plays in to the type of path we want to travel, and how fellow travelers add to our ability to increase the speed with which we travel.

    You know you've read a great article when you walk away thinking…

    Wishing you a great week!

    Georgia Feiste

  7. Mike Henry Sr. says:

    Thanks Georgia, more ideas for add on posts. We do have a bit of a caravan going on over at Lead Change. As new roads are built, we can share the shortcuts without waiting for the GPS to get updated. :-)

    Mike…

  8. Mike Myatt says:

    Hi Mike:

    I've always admired your ability to tell a story with eloquent word pictures – today's post is no exception. Your illustration will help many. Thanks for sharing Mike.

  9. Angie Chaplin says:

    I like the analogy too, Mike. I'm on a superhighway… yet surround myself with others who are driving on similar roads but at different speeds so their strengths balance my weaknesses. Although I'm admittedly frustrated by detours or roadblocks that Erin mentions, I've learned that for the most part these happen for a reason — usually it means I'm moving too fast and need someone to slow me down a bit.

    I can put these thoughts in terms of DISC-speak, and The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership by Jim Kouzes & Barry Posner. In DISC, on a scale of 1-100, I am 100 D (dominance) and 100 I (influence). My S (steadiness) is around 40, and my C (compliance) is 4. My behavior style means I need S and C tendencies on my teams — even though some of S & C tendencies frustrate me (and vice versa), they are able to see things I miss.

    Among The Five Practices (model the way, inspire a shared vision, challenge the process, enable others to act, and encourage the heart), I do well at challenging, enabling and encouraging. Inspiring a shared vision is my area of development — there are times when I "assume" that everyone else has the same vision I do yet I don't communicate it explicitly. Which means we end up on different roads and driving different speeds.

    Thanks for the opportunity to share my comments on an excellent post. Lead on!

    • Mike Henry Sr. says:

      You're great at putting things in measurable terms. I'm not much of a compliance person either. But roads are roads. I comply with the road to get me where I'm going. I don't often comply well unless I believe it will get me there. Otherwise, I ride along only to find that I'm farther from where I wanted to be than when I started.

      Thanks again. Mike…

  10. Mike Henry Sr. says:

    Thanks for the comment Frank. Analogies help me think through what I'm saying. Sometimes they drive other people crazy. Erin's add on helped me too. I may have to go with this analogy for a while farther…

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