Forget the potholes. Lengthen the road!

Where to spend your leadership development money

Spending three weeks in the Himalayas recently, I got to know a group of leaders really quite well. Expedition leaders, company directors, charity volunteers. All fantastic people achieving lots with their lives – for themselves and many others.

Sharing miles on foot, meals on seats, and too many beers gets you close. Being in the spiritual presence of majestic mountains, suffering altitude together, and sharing a pee-spot over a 2000ft gorge gets you even closer.

All of them were “imperfect”. Blind spots, prejudices, intolerances, and more.

I wonder, counter intuitively, if this might explain, in part, their growth and effectiveness as leaders.

Happy skins

Not for them some ten-point model of good leadership, or a Covey’esque list of effective habits. Not for them a set of aspirational standards against which – if so minded – they could spend time, money and energy to meet.

My trekking mates were successful people because they had discovered what they were really good at, what others really valued, what really worked. They knew who they were. They were happy in their leadership skins.

The HvL (Holes versus Length) Scale of Leadership Effectiveness

As one of them put it, “I am not spending time and money to fill in potholes. There will always be potholes. Lots of them. Bigger than my budget.”

“I want to build a longer road so I can enjoy the journey, get to places and do stuff! I will build on what I know I am great at.”

So, using the HvL model where is your current balance of leadership investment? Is it working for you? Does it feel right?

What might happen if you slid the cursor away from hole-filling and edged it, maybe even recklessly zipped it towards road lengthening? How does that feel, and does it get you to where you feel more like you want to feel? Where is the real leader-you on this scale? What are you doing to find your place and be the best you can be?


Dave Stewart
The Fresh Air Learning Company Ltd