Lessons from the Tortoise and the Hare

In the children’s classic, The Tortoise and the Hare, a hare who ridicules a slow-moving tortoise is challenged by him to a race. The hare soon leaves the tortoise behind and, confident of winning, decides to take a nap midway through the course. When he awakes, however, he finds that his competitor, crawling slowly but steadily, has arrived before him.

Pace is not a word you often hear associated with leadership. Webster’s online dictionary defines pace as “rate of movement”.   Upon a closer look, however, pace is an element successful leaders carefully utilize.

Effective leaders have a vision for their organization, division and team.  Pace is the rate at which you achieve that vision.  The question becomes how you choose to get there and leaders typically follow one of two paths:

The Hare:  If you want to get there fast, go alone.
Perhaps the greatest leadership trap is patience.  The leader owns the vision and has a clear picture of the future.  He needs those around him to see it too, as well as embrace the energy to achieve that vision.  It’s important to remember that as the leader, you have “lived” with the vision longer than the team.  And because you are dealing with individuals, not everyone moves at the same speed in understanding the direction you want to go.  And if a leader isn’t careful, he will move ahead of the team and leave them behind.  And ultimately, the team never fulfills its vision.

The Tortoise:  If you want to go far, take others with you.
This approach is the landmark of a successful leader.  With a clear vision in place, the leader takes the time to communicate to the team in a way that engages each person.  Every team members truly sees the potential that can be attained as well as their individual role in achieving it.  The result is a team that takes the journey together.  It takes longer, but perhaps this team will ultimately create an even greater future than the leader originally envisioned.

So leaders…you know “where” you want your team to go.  The question is: how will you get there?

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