Developing Leaders

The greatest leadership act in the world is growing and developing new leaders and then empowering and releasing them to lead.

Leadership development and the management training field have seen many formulas: ‘the 5 steps…’; ‘the six ways…’; ‘the seven, the nine and the twelve of something else’. All these frameworks are good, and they all carry wisdom and powerful teaching, but there are two problems:
The first is that all maps are only an extrapolation of reality.
The second is the formulaic and prescriptive proposition they make.

True, we all have maps in our mind. Even when you say “I don’t have a map,” it only means you don’t have a clear map, you’re not aware of your map, or your map isn’t working or is confusing. That’s the point of downloading new maps. It is a great learning experience. What then is the problem or danger with maps?

It’s called – forcing the map onto the landscape. That is what I did one night when we learned to navigate: I had made a thorough study of the topographic map. I memorized how many steps I’d have to count to the first fork, to then go around the first and second hill and climb the third hill that would appear on my left. It was all in the detailed topographic map.

It was a summer evening and off we went, each leaving for their solo navigation on their own. In the beginning it all looked clear. But then something happened. The turn I was looking for in between two hills did not look exactly how I expected it to look from my study of the map. But then I looked at it again and found a way to justify the landscape, and of course got lost. It’s called forcing the map onto the landscape. We do this all the time. We fight situations by trying to coerce onto them our mental map, and it brings to us grief and distress.  I had to trace back to the point where I started, by which time it was nearly morning. But first I had to let go of the fixation of forcing the map onto the ground reality.

As a leader, maps can help you a lot, but you need something even more important than maps—You need your own compass. You need to know yourself and have the capacity to enter an unknown terrain that has not been mapped, where you draw the map as you walk the terrain. This is the nature of leadership. You find a path forward in a place you have not travelled before. “To lead is to take the next step, to go where you have never gone, to open a way forward into the unknown and the uncharted.”

The best and most impactful leadership programs help leaders find and develop their own compass, sense of vision and direction and offer tools to draw the map as you walk the terrain. In our leadership summits and retreats we take the view that you are unique. Your strengths and success formulas are unique. While all formulas and maps carry helpful teachings, the greater reward is in discovering yourself, and understanding your values, areas of passion, personal capabilities, learning inclinations, energy cycles, and your own way of creating and achieving success. Successful leaders first lead themselves.

The greatest leadership programs are those that help you lead yourself and then help you get on the path of developing leaders around you.

© Aviv Shahar

0 thoughts on “Developing Leaders

  1. Nice concept of leadership development, Aviv!

    Re maps…I have always resonated with the concept of maps. One of my favorite things to do is pore over maps, finding ways to get from A to B. I love Google Earth and finding places on our planet.

    For me, mapping is related to Weick’s idea of sensemaking, that we go through life making meaning of the events we experience and setting direction for ourselves.

    Since studying human communication theory (Korzybski’s “the map is not the territory” was a revelation), in college a long time ago, I have been living these metaphors ever since.


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