One danger is that we fall in love with the path and lose sight of the goal; another danger is quietism: to be looking at the goal and doing nothing on the path. ~Pope Francis
As we embark on Holy Week, it seems fitting to look to one of our recently appointed religious leaders for some leadership wisdom. In a very short time Pope Francis was catapulted into a leadership role and has become a model of humility and grace balanced with determination and tenacity. An example of that determination and tenacity is expressed in this quote about the danger of losing sight of the goal and doing nothing.
Falling in love with the path and losing sight of the goal can take on many forms. There's the obvious, which is the, we've always done it that way syndrome. There are also more subtle forms. Like feeling so glued to the date on your strategic plan that you delay making modifications or creating a new plan until the published date on the plan has "expired." You may have categorically agreed that either the plan just simply isn't working or that you've actually completed everything on the plan ahead of schedule. In either case, the current plan has clearly outlived its usefulness but you're not going to make any changes until you've reached the published date of completion.
The examples I just provided are somewhat mechanical or technical. But sometimes falling in love with the path can reflect our values or underlying beliefs, something far more personal. When we limit our view of the world by our own beliefs, we consequently create a very narrow path. We might be wise to broaden or extend the path by allowing other beliefs to also lead to the very same destination. We fall in love with the path and lose sight of the goal.
Quietism: to be looking at the goal and doing nothing on the path. I think we fall victim to this danger far more frequently than we are willing to recognize or admit. I've been using an exercise with clients recently that illustrates this point. In some of Patrick Lencioni's recent work he suggests that leadership teams need to agree upon a thematic goal or a rallying cry. This represents what they believe to be most important, right now. It's a short-term, almost immediate goal (typically 3 months or less). Once the leadership team has agreed upon this rallying cry or thematic goal for the coming few months, I then go around the room and ask each one of them what they are going to do differently or re-prioritize in the coming months in order to achieve this thematic goal.
The leaders in the room are typically a little startled when I do this. They are surprised that I'm asking what they, personally, are going to do differently in order to achieve the goal. I have found that it's common for leaders to agree upon a goal and then return to their offices and continue with their work, as usual. They are all looking at the goal, but doing nothing on the path.
I don't want to over-analyze the Pope's choice of words, but I am intrigued that he chose to use the word danger and not something less severe like problem, pitfall or dilemma. If it's truly a danger, then maybe it's time to pause and ask ourselves what have we done this week to move our organizations and ourselves further down the path toward our goals.