Musings from the top of the bottom of the world

Let me just start by saying that my life can sometimes be a little different. How different? Well, what was expected to be a very low-key, traditional New Years ended up with 30 something hours of travel to Ushuaia, Argentina. I lugged my suitcase full of boat parts on a bit of a rescue mission for my husband Randall Reeves and his project the Figure 8 Voyage.

Ever one to turn a terrible situation into a good one, I found myself hiking in the Tierra del Fuego National Park on New Year’s day. I spent a good twenty minutes amusing myself for coming up with the sentence “We’re hiking to the top of the bottom of the world!”

Watch my video to view just one of the stunning panorama we found. (Ignore the huffing and puffing as we’d been hiking up and up and up …)

All joking and epic vista’s aside, hiking out in nature is where I spend my time thinking. Thinking up ideas to help you all navigate this ever-changing career landscape. Thinking that if you share who you are, who you really are, you’ll find that collaboration and communication become much clearer and simpler to manifest.

Bright yellow painted sticks inspired my latest idea. Tierra del Fuego National Park is enormous – 243.2 square miles (that’s just over 155 thousand acres) of open parkland. Along with the map from the park ranger, simple yellow markers (known as blazes) popped up in my field of vision just as the best direction seemed uncertain. The blazes appeared to call out “this way” and “over here” in a way that allowed for exploration without fear of getting utterly lost.

The whole experience had me wondering: What is my trail navigation leadership style and does it matter?

  • Map Maker – a leader both the bigger picture (the park) and the trail (the path to follow). This produces highly efficient and very predictable results. However, creativity and experimentation might get you lost.
  • Blaze Guide – a leader who directs the team from yellow stick to yellow stick (general check-ins to say you’re heading in the right direction). This maximizes creativity and independent thinking. However, a leader might not know when a yellow stick is needed and it could lead to disaster.
  • Trail Maker – a leader who, brandishing a sharp machete, cuts the trail. Sometimes heading the wrong way and having to double back (thus wasting time and energy) but knowing that the “destination” is somewhere in a general direction. This leader is full of enthusiasm and vision and in completing you’ve found your own path, but you might end up hiking all night.

Randall laughed at me when I shared my thoughts. He tagged me absolutely as a Trail Maker. I argued with him on this point because I’m always in charge of picking and navigating all our hikes. He is constantly lost and has no sense of direction which is shocking considering his current endeavor. Upon further reflection, I realized he was probably right. Somewhere between Trail Maker and a Blaze Guide, I’ve lead teams unabashedly through the forest sometimes forgetting that I need to pull up and show everyone the park and the trail we’re creating. Randall also pointed out that when building leadership teams, I was prone to surround myself with Map Makers who would, once I’d blazed a trail, go back and make it work more beautiful, more efficiently and make for a better overall experience for the hiker. Once in a while, he said, I’m accompanied by another yellow stick leader who can jam a yellow stick in front of me when I’m clearly heading down the wrong path.

I realized on the trail at the top of the bottom of the world that I had a new framework categorizing leadership styles – both the good and the bad. This framework allows me to understand what kind of people I need to surround myself with to traverse this enormous forest called life.

The bottom line is we’re all hiking our own path. However you tackle that path, as a map maker, a blaze creator, or a machete wielder like me, we all have a role.

It’s in understanding each of our functions that we can all bring our best selves together to create something new.

Which type of leader are you? Have you told your team which you are?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *