Lessons from a Transparent Bridge


Do you get a little queasy feeling when you’re on the edge of a cliff, or a high pedestrian bridge in a park? Are you at least a little afraid of heights? Perhaps a lot? Imagine traversing a glass-floored bridge, 1,200 feet long and 1,300 feet in the air. You step out onto the 20-foot wide walkway and as you move forward, the land below you drops quickly away into the canyon below—but your feet seem to be resting on air as you can see everything below you.

When the Zhangjiajie Grand Canyon Glass Bridge opens this fall in the Zhangjiajie National Forest in China, this will be what bridge walkers can experience…if they choose. Please take a moment to see the brief article in Wired before moving on in my post below. The visuals there are stunning.

That glass-floored bridge brings to mind some important aspects of leadership.

Support is not readily apparent, but it is definitely there. Too often leaders go it alone, thinking that it is a solo responsibility. For some leaders, this is simply nievety—they just don’t know about the support other leaders are eager to share. For others it is hubris—the think that getting help would show weakness and leadership can’t afford that. Are you using the support available to you?

Leadership should be transparent and clear to all. Well, maybe not 100% transparent. Certainly, there are things that cannot and should not be shared by leaders with followers. However, too many leaders swing the other direction and take the approach of The Great and Powerful Oz. They hide behind a curtain pretending to be something they are not. Is your level of transparency appropriate?

Leadership can be scary. It’s this scariness that often pushes leaders behind “the wizard’s curtain.” Being a leader requires risk taking and making calls that affect the lives of many, many people. This scariness cannot be avoided, nor should it. If you aren’t scared by some aspects of being a leader, something is wrong. What scares you as a leader?

On the other hand, leadership is also exciting. It is energizing. It is fun. It is motivating. The opportunity to work with people and resources to shape and influence the future is indeed very, very exciting! If you’ve not been excited to be a leader lately, why?

Sometimes, the results are breathtaking. Stepping out onto that transparent bridge will likely, for many, have the effect of being breathtaking. That’s because there is a surprise realization of what the experience is really like. Leadership can be like that, too. Sometimes, leaders have the blessing to see an unexpected result. Perhaps lives have been impacted in a way or to a degree that wasn’t anticipated. This is breathtaking. Have you taken the time to see the impact your leadership has?

Effective leadership is difficult to engineer. Often, it is very hard work to get all the pieces together so that the vision is achieved. Bridges, not to mention glass-floored bridges, are difficult to engineer. So is leadership. Do you have great engineers on your team?

When done well, people want to experience. We’ve all known those leaders that everyone wants to work with. Right now, I can think of several leaders who lead so well, I would drop almost anything to be part of their team. Is your leadership something others want to experience?

We can’t all travel to the Zhangjiajie Grand Canyon Glass Bridge and experience it personally. Take time, though, to consider these aspects of your own leadership. Talk it through with another leader and share your insights with one another.

Dr. Scott Yorkovich is a leadership coach and consultant. He works with individuals, small and medium organizations, and ministries. Contact him at ScottYorkovich[at]LeadStrategic.com with your questions.

Photo cnn.com

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