Going alone is usually faster.
But it’s rarely better.
Last week, I talked about my family’s trek up the Lanikai Pillbox Trail and the pep talk I gave them beforehand. I mentioned how I initially took a solo scouting mission to make sure it wouldn’t be more than our littlest ones could handle.
It was faster, but probably too fast. The problem is, I rushed it. I wanted to reach the summit as quickly as possible in order to attain the information I craved. So instead of taking the clear path, I looked for shortcuts. I kept a brisk pace, pushing myself to make record time.
I knew what I wanted, and I wanted it NOW. I made it to the top all right, but ended up sore, winded, and worn out, putting a damper on the rest of my day with the fam.
In life, as we chase our dreams, it’s tempting to search for shortcuts and move things along before their time. We are leery of get-rich-quick schemes and lose-weight-with-little-effort plans, but that doesn’t prevent us from trying them more often than we should.
In the history of our company, we’ve tried to force a lot of things. The only thing it ever accomplished was to leave us worn out and frustrated.
Accomplishing anything worthwhile can be incredibly hard. But forcing them to happen more quickly usually only makes the journey harder.
Fortunately, I had the wisdom to grasp that expecting the family hike to go as quickly as my solo effort would only make it miserable for all of us. The hike was doable, but success was not guaranteed. As the only one who had been to the summit, I owned my role as the leader. I made up my mind to be ok with a slower pace.
There is an African proverb which states, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far go together.”
The pep talk I gave helped set the tone with the kids, but the real work was getting in the trenches and on their level. I was attentive to my children’s individual needs. I weighed their strengths and weaknesses and carefully considered what each would require in order for us to have a successful round trip. I was mindful of when it was best to implore them to grab my hand versus encouraging them to do it themselves. I was patient, which is not always my default mode.
It’s easy to forget we are all leaders, whether or not we have an official title. Our families, organizations, and communities will all get to a better place if we take time to think about the needs of others before ourselves.
It starts with patience and humility. It’s easy to say, “Everyone needs to understand where the other side is coming from” even though we really mean, “Everyone needs to understand where I am coming from and agree with me.”
Your community has Republicans and Democrats, people who have been vaccinated and those who haven’t, even – gasp! – people who like marshmallow Peeps and those who think they’re hot garbage. Over the last few decades, we’ve been conditioned by the media and politicians to fear and demonize the other side, to see them as the reason for all our problems, and the primary obstacle holding us back from our idealized version of the world.
That’s an easy route to take, but I hope it’s easy to see how unproductive that has been.
Real life is messier than a melted marshmallow. Human beings are complicated. We are a sticky bundle of hopes and fears, a patchwork of diverse lived experiences.
I think we can all agree we are a long way from where we’d like our country and world to be. But the only way to get to a better place is with real leadership.
Let’s stop waiting for better leaders to show up, because they are already here.
They are you and they are me.
Real leadership happens when we take the time to ask questions and have real conversations, not the pretend kind where we’re really just waiting for an opportunity to convince the other person they’re wrong.
Real leadership is not declaring you know the way and then turning your back, forcing everyone else to keep up.
Real leadership is not scolding people for slowing you down.
The hike with my family took longer than my first trip. Did that make it a failure?
No. It was actually more enjoyable. Not only did I end up way less tired, but we all got to enjoy the view together.
Where is your opportunity to lead today?
Remember, real leaders don’t need a title to do real things that make a real impact.
Real leaders have humility, empathy, and patience.
Most of all, real leaders know if you want to go far, you have to go together.
Even if it does take a little longer.