There is a theme in many traditions that describes ‘the way’ as something that is not simply ’there’ but that you make as you go along. In my culture, the Spanish poet Antonio Machado wrote, not perfectly translated into English ‘Walker, there is no path to follow, you make the path by walking’
This is not what we have been told in management is ‘good management’. But, hey, we’ve been told many things in this area. We’ve been told that we need to see the path, make one first, know where is going, signposts on how to get there, how long, and how much. And there is a Gantt chart for that. This is good management.
What if Machado had it right? ‘Caminante no hay camino, se hace camino al andar’, which is much better than ‘Walker, there is no path to follow, you make the path by walking’.
Then, aha! New skills and competences come up (excuse my language)
The art of walking without not quite knowing 100% where it would take you, but seriously planning to enjoy enormously all the way.
The art of making paths, versus following paths
The art of asking, come with me, we’ll make the path together
The art of walking, full stop
The art of heading for Ithaca, but not too fast, taking your time and stopping all the way.
Ah! You think this is nonsense, New Age speech, Management Baloney. Mmm. It could certainly be if just words from the poetry of things that sits well outside the borders of the corporation fortress. Yet, it could mean something. For example. As leader, you make those paths by walking with your people, and, in doing so, you create a fabulous culture that will be a magnet for others. How much is that worth in a Employee Engagement Scale? Surely at least 1.5 points.
I suggest that good leaders care about the journey as much as the destination. That destination-only leaders are dangerous (yes, I chose the words). That the legacy of 20 milestones achieved with 2000 people killed in the way is not an interesting legacy for the 21st Century. That if you cannot seriously tell what is that you are building (I did not say where you are going) you don’t qualify as leader.
You see, the comfort of pretending that the path is rock solid, created for you, and you just have to follow it, is, well, comfort. Machado’s path is far more uncomfortable. I give you that.
Do you really mean I have to make it at the same time as walking? Seriously? Can I buy one made up earlier from a Big Consulting Group?
No you can’t, sorry, we make the path by walking. So you’d better get good shoes, some maps and good fellow travellers.
The later, well, the difference between Poetry and the Yellow Pages.