Leading a team is much like operating a good transportation system, where your goal is not simply getting from point A to point B, but delivering the most people to their desired destinations even if that means more stops, Steve McKee writes. The economy also operates this way, as “each of our organizations had its own stops and starts due to its specific market and competitive conditions,” he writes.
There’s no subway where I live, but I find it a handy way to get around when I’m in New York, Washington, D.C., or London. The novelty of it probably means I’m more likely than locals to notice certain things when I’m on board.
I was doing just that on a recent visit to the East Coast, anticipating my destination down the line and getting a little annoyed with all the stops and starts along the way. It would have been much more efficient if the subway could have just made an express trip to where I wanted to get off. But then it occurred to me that stopping and starting is kind of the point of a subway.
The same is true of buses, trains and even the hub-and-spoke airline system, which has made flying accessible to many more people than the more convenient (and expensive) point-to-point setup. When it comes to public transportation, stops and starts aren’t a bug, as they say, but a feature. Whatever form the means of transport takes, its pilot’s job is to make every stop with minimal disruption and sufficient care to prevent accidents.
That’s the metaphor I found myself using with a corporate leader who was complaining about how time-consuming it was to corral the various proclivities and perspectives of the members of her management team. She’s very good at it, which is one reason why she has risen to a position of leadership. But she’s also a visionary, which means what floats her boat is sailing as quickly and efficiently to where she wants to end up.