“Give me the 30,000 foot view.”
“What are you thinking, from a 30,000 foot level?”
If you have been leading long, you have been asked those questions before. Or you have used the metaphor of leading at 30,000 feet to describe getting a macro view, a view from above the clouds and turbulence, looking further out, and strategically planning the future.
No one ever says to a leader, “What is your 300-foot view?”
While there is danger at leading too high above the realities of today, there is also danger in only operating at 300 feet, to only living in the day-to-day and not rising above the urgent. Leaders must execute, must drop into details at times, and must be connected to the work, but leaders must also rise above the daily grind. Here are four reasons to not continually lead at the 300-foot level:
1. 300-foot leaders will get lost in the tactics.
Tactics are critical as they are steps and processes and systems that put necessary structure around a strategy. But a leader who gets lost in the tactics will be a leader who fails to provide strategic direction. Tactics must be connected to strategy and if one gets lost in the tactics, there isn’t a strategy to connect all the work to.
2. 300-foot leaders are paralyzed by analysis.
Paralysis by analysis is a cliché for a reason; leaders can easily get mesmerized in seas of data and unable to make a decision. If you only lead at the ground level, there won’t be an overarching strategy that informs your decision-making.
3. 300-foot leaders won’t develop future leaders.
Leaders who care about the future health of the team will develop others. Leaders who never look to the future won’t develop others because the pressure of today consumes them. The daily grind can pull leaders away from the primary task of developing others.
4. 300-foot leaders can’t influence the future.
Leaders can’t influence the future if they never think about the future. Those stuck in the daily grind rarely do.