I often read about the differences between leaders versus managers because strengthening my own leadership skills is something I continuously strive to do. However, Christopher I. Maxwell, in his book, “Lead Like a Guide: How World-Class Mountain Guides Inspire Us to Be Better Leaders”, offers a much-needed view on leadership.
It’s a view that moves management from the traditional mentorship model I’ve read so much about and, instead, compares it to being like a mountain climbing guide.
His guide perspective is, I think in many senses, the essence of what leadership is about — guiding people towards success by building trust and empowering people.
After rereading his book, I will, in the coming posts, elaborate more on the six leadership strengths that he writes about, as they are still relevant for me as a foundation for my own strive to be a better leader.
The risk-aware trust-builder
In my role as a CIO, I am in the midst of a high-speed business environment. I have to make daily decisions, often delivered across multiple work streams involving many stakeholders.
In the past, I have managed these demands by using more mentoring rather than guiding. I’ve seen my role as a manager being one where I create an environment that empowers people to work in ways that fit them best, in balance with the needs of the broader business environment.
But, according to Maxwell, a guide knows when the situation demands a different leadership style, based on the risks at hand — and they apply them. Removing obstacles in employees’ way so they can succeed, knowing their manager always has their back, even if it means mixing things up a bit, lays the foundation of trust.
I like to think of this as the essence of leadership.
Rereading his book, I can see that I can still embrace more flexibility in my leadership style to better guide those who count on me for support. By trusting my instincts to adapt my leadership style to the different relationships within my workplace, I can model this for the people who look to me for assistance.
To think of guiding others versus managing people incorporates many of the new leadership elements needed to build a sustainable business, a business with an infinite mindset that people will support and want to work for.
The importance of applying different leadership styles when needed is something I always have to practice, as the constant stream of things to do can make it easy to fall into a management rut. This is something Maxwell talks about, but it requires managers to have the courage to disconnect and get perspective.
Part of how that happens is by stepping back and taking a wider view.
Unfortunately, many people in management positions today are only focusing on short-term insights to inform their decision-making. They neglect to see the risks and fail to keep the bigger picture in mind because, like me, they can easily get caught up in the day-to-day demands of constant decision-making or just in the glorification of busyness.
While that may temporarily solve immediate problems, it doesn’t empower managers to create the environment they need, which comes from taking a step back and surveying the bigger picture.
Become the leader you always wanted to work for.
By balancing the need for flexibility while laying a foundation of trust, managers looking to grow their leadership skills should look toward guiding people and taking time to consider the bigger picture.
The Guiding Leader
Thinking of leadership from a guide’s perspective gives a really fresh take on what I believe a good leader is about. If you are in a leadership position, Maxwell provides some core building blocks to help you guide others.
When you have trust, it’s easier to guide people and help them develop their skills. Moreover, you empower them to give a little extra, which is how organizations remain sustainable and prosperous.
They are the fundamentals I strive for in my leadership and a good reminder of what I need to work on. That is the kind of leader I strive to be on a journey towards a more infinite mindset.
In the next post, I will write more about how, as a leader, I have to be aware of others and their actions, understanding where people are coming from, to guide them with encouragement and support.
[This post was originally posted on Medium, April 12, 2017]