Always in the deep wood when you leave
Familiar ground and step off alone into a
New place there will be, along with feelings
Of curiosity and excitement, a little nagging
Of dread. It is an ancient fear of the unknown
And it is your first bond with the wilderness
You are going into.
What you are doing is exploring.
What would it mean, could it mean, to lead from a mindset of exploration?
What impression would it make on the team if their leader transmitted to them both their feelings of curiosity and excitement as well as that little nagging of dread?
What might happen if the team felt trusted enough with those darker feelings, common as they are to the human experience, while also being asked to animate their own curiosity and excitement as a way to prevent them from taking over?
What if the leader began with the assumption that healthy, professional adults are able to work with the competing demands of exploration and want to be invited into a more spacious conversation about what role they might play on the expedition?
What if the leader normalized that ancient fear of the unknown by facilitating a full and ongoing discussion about the possibilities that await on the trail, the real risks and the potential rewards?
What if the team was trusted to make the plans, to plot the course, to safely light up both their strengths and their weaknesses so that learning becomes a companion for the journey rather than an excuse to stay home?
What if the leader stepped onto the trail first, into the known-unknown, and held the light up so that others could follow?
These are the deep woods. We are all explorers. You are our leader.
How do you wish to proceed?
DAVID BERRY is the author of “A More Daring Life: Finding Voice at the Crossroads of Change” and the founder of RULE13 Learning. He speaks and writes about the complexity of leading in a changing world.