GPS Leadership

It’s Guest Post Monday! This post is written by Kari Scare who is a freelance writer. Her passions include reading books, magazines and blogs, pursuing a healthy lifestyle through exercise and diet, spending time with your two boys and her husband, and of course, writing. While these passions play a large part in defining who she is, they are guided and directed by her faith in Christ. She writes at  Struggle to Victory where her focus lies with showing that victory of any size requires some amount of struggle. If you would like to have a post featured on my site then click here.

Remember the days of having to print a map from the internet before going on a trip? The days before GPS? If you really want to date yourself, admit to using a booklet atlas to find your way.

Sometimes, the map failed to successfully get me to my destination. Sometimes, I failed to follow the map successfully and got frustrated and lost.

Even with GPS, destinations have a way of being elusive. Construction blocks the route. Roads change as buildings go up. No satellite connection flashes on the screen. One time, my destination was an abandoned building with the hotel in a new location not yet known to my GPS.

A leader exists somewhat like a map or GPS, guiding followers to an intended destination. As such, following maps and GPS helps me understand leading as well as following.

1.       Leaders make mistakes. When a leader fails morally, ethically or legally, a trip may need temporarily cancelled until restoration takes place. And sometimes, a leader just makes a wrong decision. That’s when you simply reroute and try again.

2.       Followers need to follow. As long as a leader leads morally, ethically and legally, my job involves following the leader’s directions. Not doing so leads to disunity and discord. When I let my pride get in the way, I don’t follow well and get lost. Focusing on serving in humility drastically improves my ability to follow.

3.       Blocked paths lead to frustration. Construction and blocked roads usually equal frustration. Frustration can lead to giving up or discovering an alternate route. A good leader allows emotions like frustration to guide toward new solutions rather than lead to discouragement.

4.       Every once in a while, the destination disappears. Ever follow the map perfectly only to have the destination not exist? When the intended destination is no longer an option (lost sale, denied grant, etc.), a leader must creating a new plan and move on.

5.       Rerouting sometimes happens multiple times. Shortly after receiving my first GPS, I had the opportunity to hit the reroute button multiple times in one business trip because of prolific construction in downtown Lansing, Michigan. Eventually, my GPS led me home. A leader must do the same when the unexpected becomes the expected.

In The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, Eragorn becomes frustrated when he believes his two friends, Merry and Pippen, are dead. He expresses his frustration, which leads him to finding clues telling him they are in fact alive and where they are located. While this happens, his followers (Gimli and Legolas) stand by waiting direction as if they know Eragorn’s frustration will lead them forward.

This scene emphasizes the lessons of GPS leadership. Plans change, dead ends come up, a leader makes mistakes, frustration leads to solutions, and followers sometimes feel lost. Yet, simply moving forward brings unexpected paths and new opportunities. In other words, refuse to give up even when the path appears blocked, the destination changes or frustration takes over. And be a good follower, because sometimes that’s exactly what a leader needs to keep moving forward.

Question: What other correlations do you see between using GPS and leading or following?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • My problem with the GPS is that it is often in my glove compartment and I simply fail to get it out and plug it in. It reminds me that a leader is only a leader when he is actually influencing the lives of those he leads. In order to do that you must have some sort of power source for your own life turned on! In addition the position given to a person (president, CEO etc..) doesn’t make him a leader, being plugged in and influencing the lives of others does!

    • Great point, Caleb! Does no good to have the direction and guidance and to not share it with and guide others. Also made me think that as followers, we are not doing what we should if we fail to follow the leaders that we have. If we keep ourselves separated and try to go it alone, we get lost and frustrated so easily.

  • I’ve never used a GPS. I do use Google maps, and even real paper maps. I also have a good general sense of direction. I think leaders need to be good map readers, but that natural sense of direction might be important, too.

    • Good points, Dan. Leaders need to be good map readers and have a natural sense of direction. Comes with their hopeful growth in character as they grew into leaders.

  • It’s sometimes difficult to “blindly follow” a GPS. Especially when you’ve traveled the same route for years. Taking the “new highway” that promises to save minutes off of the trip can lead to doubt because you are so familiar with the old way.

    • You have some interesting points in just this short comment, Charles. Following blindly can be difficult, for sure. Sometimes it’s necessary, and sometimes we can simply proceed with caution. Changing from the same route you’ve followed can be scary, but oh my the scenery can be refreshing and revitalizing. Doubt can certainly creep in when you choose to follow a new way, and that’s whey we need to have our convictions firmly established. Interesting & thought-provoking!

    • Great point, getting outside of our normal routine is so important. Thank you for reading and adding to the topic.

  • DS

    A lot could be said about the loss of the ability to read maps. It has to be linked to specific function of our brain! My problem is that my GPS isn’t always right, so I use it as an additional helper to my instinct, and past experience. I believe that’s important for leaders. Don’t rely on one resource, leverage several tools to help you get where you’re going.

    • I do the same thing! I like to check a couple of map programs to verify the best route. My husband and I have had 2-3 different devices helping us at times, and that is definitely a great point for leaders as well. So, the question is then, what are those different resources & tools that can/should be leveraged?

      • DS

        One resource: trusted adviser(s), just like you and your husband working together.

        • Yes, a good example. Also, mentors and accountability relationships. More?

  • Great post, Kari. I like the fact that you pointed out that blocked paths or reroutes and change bring about opportunity. That is the vision and wisdom of the solid leader. Getting up, dusting ourselves off and moving on is the perseverance required for success in any endeavor.

    I remember when it was maps in a gas station! Thanks, Kari.

    • Thanks, Floyd. I’m constantly amazed at how frustration can lead us to new opportunities we would not have otherwise found. For this reason, I try to not avoid frustration just because it’s, well, frustrating. What about the maps in the rest areas? Or for that matter, the existence of more actual rest areas than we have now?

      • Oh yeah! I forgot about the rest stops. And good point on the lack of them now!

  • I just listened to a podcast the other day that talked about the creative process. The woman (I can’t remember who it was) said that in the creative process, sometimes you have to spend a whole day working and accomplishing nothing in order to get the next day when it all comes together and you finally figure it out. It’s best to be patient and know that you can’t always go from point A to point B on the map in a nice simple straight line – because there’s not always a road available.

    • Great way to put it, Barb. I try to have creative days on Mondays & Wednesdays and productive days on Tuesdays & Thursdays kind of for this reason. Fridays are more errand and whatever I feel like kind of days. I can’t do this strictly just because of life events, but it has been working pretty well. My point being, that not really having a road map some days and kind of exploring the area can be very helpful. You just brought back a memory of my mom and I always finding new ways to familiar places. I think that does something interesting for our creativity too. Great point!

      • That’s interesting, Kari – does that mean you don’t write on your productive days?

        • Actually I do write on productive days. Creative days are when I hand write in my idea book (on paper) and no editing, and productive days are when I type them out on my computer & do editing.

          • That’s interesting – I might have to give that a try. Interesting also that you hand write them first in a notebook. That would make it easier to make a no edit rule. This is a great idea. I’ll have to try it. Thanks, Kari.

            • You’re welcome. It’s kind of what Stephen King calls in On Writing the door closed and door open approach. Door closed is just me and the creative process. The door open is me crafting the words for others to read. Yeah, I don’t edit when I do my drafts. Just let it all out how it comes out! Let me know how it goes.

  • Love that you mention that followers need to follow.
    So often people focus on what it takes to be a good leader…we need some books/blogs/etc that help followers follow! We can’t all lead! Each of us has a unique job and skill set, we need to know our own limits and let others lead in the areas we lack. This reminds me of the book, “I am a church member” by Thom Rainer

    • Oooh, I like the idea of a book about followers. I have been tossing around ideas… Anyway, we can’t all always lead. We have strengths and weaknesses that fit into this idea too. Thanks for the book suggestion too. You’ve got my mind whirling a bit!

      • I think that would be a great book to read…I’d buy it!

        Glad to have helped :) Have a blessed day.

        • Definitely going to have to think on that one some more. Glad to know I would sell at least one copy!

          • LOL

            • So, this I has been on my mind a lot since TC mentioned it. I welcome any and all ideas for this book. When ideas are coming as clearly as they are for me now, I know it’s something I need to pursue. Would love to have more input from you!

              • Thanks, Kari. Anyway I can help I will. The Body of Christ needs good leaders but it also must have people willing to follow and DO their part. But that’s not limited to the church.
                Discipleship is a life long journey, not just “getting saved”. “The Cost of Discipleship” by Dietrich Bonhoeffer is a great book that could help but I’m not sure exactly if you’re wanting to pursue this from a Christian standpoint or just in general?

                • Thanks for the resource idea & willingness to support. I like the premise you’ve come up with. I have been reading some devotions by Bonhoeffer and really like them. I am definitely interested in the book, especially as “research” for this book idea. I think it could be pursued from both standpoints. I just read in one of John Maxwell’s books how he started primarily teaching and writing about leadership for pastors but added secular when he found out that he was selling more (a lot more) outside of the Christian community. So, I’m thinking both? You have no idea how much this fits with my background. I’ve struggled with calling myself a leader, per say, but I do feel like I am a good follower and a good leader of followers, not in the conforming sense though. Sorry so long…

                  • I understand where you’re coming from regarding being a “leader”. I hadn’t considered myself one either. I was surprised in the beginning to see many of my followers are actually leaders and/or blog about leadership. They have really inspired me and taught me so much.
                    When I first began blogging it was because I wanted to be a published writer and I heard I needed a platform, two years later I’m still not published but I have made so many wonderful friends that I don’t regret starting my blog (even if I never do get published).
                    Daily I am learning and growing.
                    BTW, I blog about being a follower of Christ and about current events. I try to tie the two together so people can see how certain things are relevant to Christians and how they can take action in some way.
                    Feel free to contact me on twitter, my blog or via email. I’ll look up your blog as well.
                    God bless.

                    • I too am humbled by the individuals who choose to read my blog and take time to comment and interact with me, especially when I find out more about them. I am certain they have plenty of other ways to spend their time an am truly honored they choose to give some of it to me. I learn so much from interacting with everyone that comes to my blog. Thank you for giving me your perspective and a bit of your story to help me see that I’m not so alone in some of my thoughts about writing and not being published. We do have to learn and grow daily, don’t we? I love writing a blog and interacting with people, and I truly feel I would do it even if no one read it simply because I am being obedient. But that God chooses to give me a community to grow with… that amazes me. Your blog sounds interesting. I’m not so good at considering political and current events, so your point of view intrigues me since it is outside of my comfort zone a bit. I will definitely check out your blog. Thanks for mentioning it. Look forward to connecting more.

                    • I look forward to getting to know you more! Have a blessed day.

                    • Same here. I signed up to receive your posts this morning.

                    • Thanks so much, I signed up for yours through feedburner I think.

          • I would buy a copy, that’s two!

      • I hope you do write a book about that:) It’s a great topic and needed for a lot of people.

    • Great point, that would be a good book.

  • I like the LOTR tie-in – I think that really demonstrates what you’re talking about. I think it’s times like these that really give a leader a chance to shine in front of followers. A chance to emerge at the end as a better team.
    Sometimes dead-ends happen and destinations disappear, but we’ve got to learn not to give in and give up.
    Great post, Kari!

    • Thanks, Loren. We do need to be ready for dead ends and disappearing destinations (sounds like a sermon title) because they certainly will happen. But they definitely force our creativity and get us to think in a way we wouldn’t otherwise. Some of my best thinking is born out of frustration, and I am learning to trust that process.

  • Leadership offers multiple ways to get to a solution just like a GPS can offer you paths by vehicle, foot, or bicycle.

    • Very true, Joe. Good leaders are open to multiple solutions, even if they aren’t their own. Love that analogy! Also, what works best in one situation might not be best in another. Sometime walking is better than going by car, etc.

  • And let’s not forget . . . sometimes we just have to ignore the GPS altogether and follow our gut, our intuition. Maybe not so much when navigating the big city, but certainly when navigating the twists and turns of life. When you lead with your heart — no matter how difficult the journey may be — your destination will always be true.

    Cheers!

    • Definitely true, Trevor. Sometimes it’s better to go off the map and explore. Never know what you’ll find when you forge new paths!

    • Great point about following our gut, that’s essential. Thank you for sharing.

  • I love the #4–the destination disappears. I love it because life is not a map…at least not a static one so we have to be willing to make new plans accordingly. Wow! Great stuff Kari!

    • Hello Mike,

      Only if our life was a map, clearly laid out. oh, well:) At least for Christians we know the end results. Thank you for reading and commenting. It’s great to hear from you.

    • Thanks, Mike. Flexibility is so important. If we don’t have it, we’ll be continually frustrated and lost. Need to be able and willing to adapt as plans and destinations change.

  • I can hear the “re-calculating” voice when I read #1 – we all make mistakes…at least I make them as I lead my team. Great reminders and great analogy to a GPS.

    • I think the key is to admit and learn from mistakes. Letting our team know we made the mistake and the things we learned from it. Thank you for sharing Tom.

    • Mine is “Rerouting…” over and over again. Mistakes can be so beneficial to us finding a better way. I’m certain that leading your team comes not in the fact that you make mistakes, because we all do, but in the way that you handle those mistakes. Lead on!

  • Awesome analogy here Kari because my GPS is always sending me places where I should not be. This Leadership journey is one that is so unpredictable, but we have to turn around and find anything path. Absolutely love this post.. Great stuff.

    • Thanks, Lincoln. Leadership certainly is unpredictable, but maybe that’s part of its excitement too.

      • Thanks Kari. You are absolutely right and so true. The unpredictable nature of Leadership is very exciting, nobody wants a boring Leader right?

        • For sure! I’ve had boring leaders, and I’ve been a boring leader. I have learned to appreciate unpredictability.

  • Kari I love #4! no, not that i enjoy it when it happens but that it’s such a fresh way to look at leadership. Sometimes we can be so sure about our destination and find it difficult to make adjustments when it “disappears”, for one reason or another. I am also thinking about self-leadership and how important these points are for a thriving intentional life. great thoughts.

    • Great point on self leadership, Ngina. If we can’t lead ourselves, we have no business leading others. We must be flexible and will to adjust when mistakes happen or plans change… because both will happen more than once. A “thriving intentional life” does mean leading self and growing as a leader too.

  • Mark Allman

    Kari,

    I think as a follower we do have the responsibility to make sure we are following the right “leader”. We might want to compare a GPS result to a online map’s route and someone’s experience to decide how much faith we want to put into the “leader” or decide we should look elsewhere.

    As a leader I think it is important to make sure the journey is worthwhile. You spend most of your time in the journey phase and I think a leader needs to make sure he does things that make it good. He should put his disappointments and frustrations with blocked routes and unclear roadways aside to encourage others as they are making the journey. If I am a leader or follower I don’t want to end the trip all bloodied and bruised. I want all to relish the journey. How we get there is often more important that the destination.

    • Hello Mark,

      Great point about following the “right leader.” A leader worthy of following will show results while caring for those around them. Good thoughts! Thank you for reading and sharing.

      Do you have a site or blog?

      • Mark Allman

        No, Just enjoy commenting on blogs like Kari’s.

        • I don’t blame you, she is a great writer:) Thank you for stopping by to read her guest post and add to the conversation.

    • Choosing the right GPS is a big deal, even if it’s an ap on your phone. Some just don’t do what we need them too. My husband installed a couple of aps before he found the right one for him. Likewise, the right leader doesn’t always happen the first time either. Sometimes we need to look elsewhere, and sometimes we just need time to get used to a new one.
      The journey is definitely more important than the destination in many cases. If we have an especially frustrating journey, the sweetness of reaching the destination can be dulled at times. How many husbands and wives can attest to not enjoying a destination because of the “struggle” in getting there? A good leader does need to get outside of himself and seriously consider those on the journey with him. I think it’s good to see his emotions but that he doesn’t let those emotions control him or force emotional (bad) decisions. And encouragement needs to be a part of the process as well.
      Great points, Mark!

  • Great post Kari, I like how you tied the two together.

    • Glad you liked the post. Thank you for reading and sharing.

    • Thanks, Kimanzi. I’m glad they connected well.

  • Mansal

    Great post and amazing connection of leadership to Lord of the Rings! Never thought it would be so seamless to combine them :)

    • Glad you enjoyed the post. Thank you for reading and adding to the conversation.

    • Thanks. Lord of the Rings connects to EVERY area of life, my friend :-)

  • Coen

    Wow, can you believe this, I published my book, Live&Lead: Discovering Your Personal and Organisational Guidance System, last July. In the book I develop the rational behind a GPS and a Personal Guidance System (PGS) and the Organisational Guidance System (OGS). I then show how to apply it in leadership. Thanks for the post Kari, and I would love to hear what you think of my book!

  • That scene in LOR became irrevocably tied to the concept you describe as I read this. Excellent tie in – I love when thoughts like this deepen my understanding of a book/movie/song.

    I had my own moment like this during Star Trek: Into Darkness. http://jondharrison.com/2013/05/29/what-star-trek-into-darkness-taught-me-about-facing-challenges/

    • I’m glad you enjoyed the post Jonathan:) Thank you for adding your thoughts and sharing the link.