This is Leadership: Pathfinders—to chart a course is to lead, open and show the way

leader steers the team
Richard Kwarteng Ahenkorah

Leaders cannot keep heads down. A leader must see the bigger picture. A leader must chart a course. A leader should set sail. A leader steers the team. A leader plans the path. A leader blazes the trail and the leader navigates the way. In a corporate training, a participant asked me: “So what else shouldn’t the leader do?” “He shouldn’t be sleeping”, I answered. Your purpose as a leader in the lives of your followers is to create a path and chart the course to a defined destination. That destination must be known from the very beginning.

The imaginary thought of a final destination whets the appetite for continuous preparation and constant calibration. A leader must always paint a picture of the journey to the followers. At least everyone deserves the chance to know how close or how far the ship will sail. Do not forget to measure the KPI’s on the journey. Charting a course was initially a naval term where officers used charts to navigate their way. It relates to deciding which way to go. As a nautical term, to chart a course was more of plotting.

On a long expedition, you need direction to stay on track. When you find the path for the team, you chart the course. To chart a course is to lead, open and show the way. For me, one of the phrases in leadership that keeps me awake all day and all night is ‘charting a course’. There are always impediments on the journey to leadership development.

Unfortunately, leaders cannot express weakness and cannot also fall for impediments along the way. If leaders don’t exhibit the energy to clear the way, their followers won’t have the motivation to see ahead, together.

In one of my corporate trainings – ‘employeeitude’ – I established that people need to chart a course either for themselves or for their teams. To chart a course is to plot the journey to carry the team along. Every team has a story. There will be heartbeats when you attempt charting any kind of course especially if it’s a new endeavour. Listen to the team. Listen to the beats. They send right signals. Intuition is crucial in leadership development too.

In the book, ‘Head, Heart and Guts’ (Dotlich et al 2005), it sums up a lot of good pointers. It is important to get a very good mix of everything including emotions, character, experience, knowledge and wisdom. When you find your direction, you don’t dance with two left feet. To be pointy, identify your course. Focus. Act. Don’t keep on talking. Paint the picture. Add more colours if you have to. Chart a course when you find the path. Go with the team! They are your helping gears.



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