Shortcuts can bypass so many valuable lessons in a leader’s journey.
One of my Father’s Day gifts to myself was a little solitude in the form of exercise. I got up early before the rest of the fam did and hiked Kennesaw Mountain. I hadn’t made the climb in a while, but it didn’t take long to see a new feature to the trail.
Shortly into the hike I saw a newly installed split rail fence. It was in an area where the trail I use intersects with another trail. From there, the two trails become one. A primary rule of the park is to stay on the designated trails. A rule that is clearly posted. Due to the historic significance of the park, it is important to stay on the trails. People apparently insisted on taking a shortcut, so the Park Rangers had to put up a fence.
I have never really understood the purpose of taking a shortcut during the process of exercising! It just doesn’t compute! This week, we dive into four reasons why shortcuts can bypass so much in our leadership journeys.
Beyond the fence that was put up, I could see the path that had been worn out. It didn’t get worn out by one person, it required multiple people doing it repeatedly. Here is the thing, it all started with one person influencing others to take the shortcut. One after the other formed the path.
John Maxwell defines leadership simply as, “influence.” We all wield the ability to influence others. We can use that influence for good or bad. The decision is solely ours on how we use it. Wear out the right path and others will follow, wear out the wrong one and they will follow it as well. The ability to influence others is the most awesome responsibility we have as leaders, do not do it poorly.
When you take a shortcut on a trail, you miss out on the full benefits of the cardiovascular experience. That seems completely counterproductive, doesn’t it? You go through all that work, just to shortcut the experience and miss out on the full benefit.
When we take shortcuts in our leadership journeys, we can miss out on so much. The full journey has so much to offer if we experience it in its entirety. Sure, it may require more time and energy, but the lessons learned benefit you further down the trail of leadership. Do not miss out on that opportunity by taking the easy way out.
If the Park Rangers chose to do nothing, people would continue to take the shortcut. Unfortunately, because people could not abide by the rules of the trail, they had to put the fence up. They had to spend time, money, and energy that could have been better placed elsewhere.
One of the hardest things in leadership is to realize that as a leader, you must deal with issues. We can walk past or avoid an issue because of the time, money, and energy that it takes to deal with it.
Whether it is a physical issue or a personnel issue, we must deal with it. If we do not deal with the issue, we create a culture in which it is acceptable to take shortcuts. We create culture with every decision we make. Culture is also created with every decision we avoid. Deal with it!
The temptation to pursue easy always has consequences. Shortcuts are always easier in the short-term, but end up harder in the long-term. On the trail, you get caught taking a shortcut, you risk getting a ticket. A ticket that you pay the price for later.
The pressures we face daily as leaders increases the temptation to pursue the easier road. When you are just looking for the smallest of wins in a stressful season, shortcuts become intriguing. Staying disciplined and Playing the Long Game pays great dividends later. Our leadership journeys are marathons, not sprints. Mark Twain said, “It is never wrong to do the right thing. Run the race right.
From an athletic perspective, people quit mentally well before they quit physically. When their mental tanks start running low, they look for physical shortcuts. Mine starts looking for those shortcuts as I approach the top of the mountain. When I am tired and exhausted. It is an easy way out.
Every time I get close to the top, I remember what it feels like to make the entire journey on the trail. The view from the top of that mountain is exhilarating! The reward for maximizing what the trail has to offer me physically and mentally. That moment when everything makes sense at the top if I just tough it out long enough!
What path are we wearing out for those we lead? Shortcuts or the right ones? People will follow us down one or the other, we determine the direction. And get this, intentions never determine direction, our actions do. Taking shortcuts can bypass critical routes in our journeys. Which path are you taking?