Try the Road Less Travelled
Ever thought about where you’re going? Is your destination success? This article combines a classic motivational poem with the priceless advice of best-selling author Jim Collins.
In his book: “Good to Great”, Collins convincingly examined what it was that turned good companies into greats. A basic tenet of his book was “first who … then what”. For these companies, one of the first steps in changing from good to great was to take a road less travelled.
When Collins and his team started their research project they expected to find that “the first step in taking a company from good to great would be to set a new direction, a new vision and strategy for the company, and then to get people committed and aligned behind the new direction.” However, the leaders of these great companies chose a different path.
What did Collins’ successful business leaders do differently? Collins’ favourite analogy was that of driving a business like a bus, but one without a particular destination on display. Instead, we imagine the bus with a sign saying simply – “Destination: Success”. On this bus, the driver hasn’t decided on a destination then recruited the crew.
On Collins’ bus, the first decision is who, not where.
“… first get the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, and the right people in the right seats, then figure where to drive the bus.” Once on the bus, the right people together would work out how to “take it someplace great.”
The power of taking a road less travelled is captured in a famous poem by Robert Frost: The Road Not Taken. Although its possible to interpret the poem in different ways, the most popular interpretation is that it encourages non-conformity.It epitomises the value of setting off in new directions, taking a direction that others may not have journeyed. Choosing a different path. Maybe destination success! Enjoy the poem and its inspiring notions of individualism and chance, before returning to our discussion of leaders and the different paths they chose.
The Road Not Taken
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Destination Success? Dare to be Different
Here are some further thoughts prompted by the idea of a road less travelled:
- Successful leaders are prepared to set out in new directions – to find new opportunities and different ways to take things forward.
- One “road less travelled” is to begin with your people. Build a shared vision, then together determine what destination “success” should mean.
- Leaders find the new and look to the future. They don’t rest in the past.
- Leaders look for differences and opportunities, rather than necessarily following the well-trodden path.
In the poem, taking the road less travelled made all the difference. And that’s what good leaders do: they make all the difference.
Destination Success? Think of ways you could take the road less travelled.
You can find more on Jim Collins and his inspirational ideas at his excellent website.