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GPS navigation is a fantastic modern convenience! I find it rather incredible that a little device, about the size of a deck of cards, links to a handful of satellites orbiting more than 12,000 miles (!) above Earth to identify my position within a few feet. Really! Isn’t that amazing? Not only does the GPS receiver tell me where I am, but provides a host of other information, too: direction, altitude, speed, and information about locations near me.
On the other hand …
GPS has its shortcomings:1
- It can offer direction, but it cannot steer.
- It can tell you how to get to a destination, but it cannot listen to your desires and suggest a goal.
- It can identify routes to that destination, but it cannot forge new paths.
- It can tell you when you are off course and how to get back on, but it cannot help you learn how to avoid future navigation errors.
- It can report a lot of data, but it cannot evaluate the accuracy or value of that data.
So, while GPS navigation remains a fantastic tool, it also has important limitations.
Imagine what it would look like if your leadership was essentially “GPS leadership.”
- You can tell an organization which way to go, but you cannot align the people and resources to get there.
- You can tell an organization how to get to a goal, but you do not have the ability to listen to the pulse of the people and the market to identify a new vision.
- You can tell the organization possible paths to achieve a goal, but you do not have the ability to open up and create new paths.
- You can tell the organization when it has lost sight of its mission and even how to refocus, but you cannot help the organization learn from its mistakes to prevent future issues.
- You can locate and share a lot of information, but you cannot evaluate its accuracy or value and help the organization use it to improve.
Would that really be leading the organization? You would be able to provide some service to the organization, but would you be able to deal with the core responsibilities of leadership? Leaders need to do far more than detect and report information (which is all that a GPS navigation device does). Effective leaders are able to sense unspoken nuances of what is observed; they have heart and understand the heart of others; they create vision and set new, unheard of goals; they learn, grow, and challenge others to do the same.
Take a moment to assess whether your leadership looks a little (or a lot) like GPS leadership.
1: Thanks to my friend Paul Austin, of Chi Alpha Campus Ministries, for this metaphor.