Leading Into Unfamiliar Territory

As leaders, it is often our job to take our organization out of the comfort of the typical day-to-day and bring them into uncharted waters which can strike fear into the hearts of those you are leading. Although the comfort of the norm may be tempting to maintain, we understand that hefty rewards are not reaped by those who maintain the status quo. Those leaders who walk boldly into the unknown, bringing their followers along on their vision, are the ones who achieve true greatness.

It isn’t difficult to convince leaders of this value in exploring new territory, but how do we get our followers to buy-in on the vision? Most followers relish the thought of consistency in their careers. They want the next day to be just like the last, predictable and familiar. It is our job as leaders to bring our followers along, not by force or coercion, but by making our vision so irresistible that they can’t help but want to go where you are taking them.

The most important step in getting your followers to beat down the doors of uncertainty and go to battle with you is to cast a vision that will draw them in. You can’t just walk in one day and tell your crew what you are going to do and tell them they need to join you because that is the way it is. Your people will resent you for changing what they are accustomed to, morale will rapidly fall and you will encounter deep resistance as you try to move forward. You have to let them know what the benefit is of this move and why it is absolutely essential to make it. Obviously as the leader you have a strong vision and you fully believe in what you are doing, but it is your ability to convey that vision to your followers that will determine the overwhelming success or miserable demise of your plan.

Another lesson I have learned about taking a group into the unknown is that it is easier to do in steps rather than all at once. As a young leader, I was charged with taking over a program and was responsible for the management of over 30 volunteers. I thoroughly evaluated the program and formed a vision of where I wanted to see us move over the next year, which included several fairly significant changes. During my first staff meeting, I laid it all out there and I was expecting everybody to say how much they loved the new ideas that I was sure would improve the program. . . I was wrong. I encountered a lot of resistance because I tried to bring too much change at once. Although I believe my vision was solid, I didn’t implement it well. After that meeting, I stepped back, and over the course of several months, I slowly implemented the changes to the program to ease the volunteers into it. The overall vision was successful, I just had to alter the timing. I know there are some changes where action has to be immediate, but if a slow transition is an option, it is a good option to consider.

People will follow a true leader anywhere and into any adventure. Followers are looking somebody to follow, they just want a vision that they can buy into. How well you cast your vision and how you lead them into the unknown will determine your success.