On the 31st August 2013, Lesley, my wife, and soul-mate retired after 35 years teaching in secondary schools. Two days later, as planned, we set off for a magical celebratory holiday, taking in New York, California and Oregon. Our trip became known as the ‘Freedom Trail’.
While on the Freedom Trail, I journaled every day and ended each entry with a leadership moment/lesson. Here’s another!
Leaders regularly scan the environment for threats and opportunities
Heading north today from Fort Bragg, our final destination was the town of Eureka, taking us ever closer to one of our key objectives for this trip – the Avenue of Giants.
En route we decided to visit the town of Mendocino, having read much about it.
What a step back in time – it struck us as a very 60’s, hippie, arty type of town. We had a great mooch around and admired the very laid-back style the place evoked. It seemed almost that time had stood still.
In the local art gallery, people made us very welcome. We had a pleasant conversation with an ex-patriot Brit, now living in Mendocino, who heard us speaking and made a beeline for us. She had links to Liverpool, which was my wife’s home city, and so the conversation turned to reminiscing and remembrance. We loved the art, which was very eclectic; paintings, drawings, sculpture, metalwork, and even furniture.
Moving on, we visited a local coffee shop for coffee and cake. We were bowled over by the many different varieties of coffee were on sale. Even more, by how many different ways local people drank it! I had a headache just trying to order!
But sitting there, listening to people talking and watching the world pass by, made me wonder again how time sometimes doesn’t seem to touch places as much as it does others. In my everyday life, I experience something entirely different. As an organisation leader, I deal with constantly evolving change, principally because I, my team and my group grow and change, often at an unrelenting pace. It was, therefore, fascinating to experience something new.
After our break, we strolled out to the headland and took the photograph above. From a distance, the town nestled on the cliff side looked brilliantly white; and a disparate collection of buildings of all sizes. Walking round, however, we knew the architecture was anything but monochrome. Most of the houses were beautiful, wooden slat built with gardens full of colour, like the one we photographed opposite
Throughout our walk, we had seen driftwood from the beach used to carve or create sculptures and benches. The town might look somewhat monochrome from a distance, but inside it most certainly was not.
With some time remaining before commencing the final leg of our journey to Eureka, we decided to make a detour and view the famous Chandelier Tree. It was another example of the Sequoia we were so looking forward to seeing. When we arrived at the site, we were pleased to find you could drive through it, as you can see from the final picture.
The silver car is ours – I was driving – Les was glad she wasn’t! It was a tight fit – but worth it — over 21ft across – unbelievable! The first time I have ever driven through a tree! Another unintended bucket list item ticked!
Arriving in Eureka that night, I was left thinking about the day past. In particular, I was musing on the contrast between the slow, leisurely pace of Mendocino and my everyday working life as a leader.
It reaffirmed for me that cultural change, which happens in all organisations, can occur quickly, slowly, or infinitesimally, like the outward appearance of Mendocino. A leader must, therefore, regularly scan the environment for threats and opportunities, and plan and respond accordingly.
As always, I welcome your comments and meaningful dialogue. I am always happy to listen and ready to help. I wish you an entertaining and enlightening experience of this series of posts. Thank you for reading.
Leaders scan the environment for threats and opportunities and plan and respond accordingly.