The Thoughtful Leader


I have been on an island off the coast of Maine for the past ten days, enjoying the cool air while hearing of brutal heat on the mainland. Recently we’ve had thick fog which signals its arrival each morning with the long bleating foghorns of lobster boats out on the bay. Nearby islands fade into the mist. The tide rises and falls silently, and the wind holds its breath.
During yesterday’s fog we decided to take a long walk on the back side of the Basin, a protected salt water lake usually alive with seals, gulls, herons, and occasional fish hawks, but barely visible in the fog that afternoon. The trail, well marked by local land trust volunteers, wound through the woods along the shore and then turned upward onto open stone ledges that could have given us beautiful views of the Basin on a sunny day. Eventually it looped south, back through thicker woods presumably returning us to our starting point. Somewhere along that final loop we lost our way, came to a swampy pond with no further trail markings, and couldn’t figure out which inviting half-path through the tangled undergrowth would take us back to the road. Our puppy had no interest in helping us find the trail, but focused on chasing red squirrels through a maze of fallen pines.
What are your personal guidelines for yourself when lost in thick forest without a compass or perhaps on a business path that seems to be leading nowhere, where your goals are elusive, you know there is a way out, but you also know you’re not thinking clearly. How do you keep yourself calm, look for the sun, listen for bird calls from the nearby lake in order to orient yourself, perhaps retrace your steps, and think through your range of choices? Can systems-based leadership show you a way out of the woods when you are lost? I look forward to hearing your thoughts, experiences, and planning process for “next steps” when you have felt lost on the job.
Katharine Gratwick Baker


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