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The Hidden Elements of Leadership


Article by Brian Pearson

Photography by Brian Pearson

For all people around the world, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed everything about how we live our lives. People are having to be more aware of their surroundings, more aware of how we interact. We have to plan everything. Now more than ever, more is required of leaders.

"Leadership is about influence, nothing more, nothing less." –John Maxwell

If you have influence, you are a leader. You may be a business person or a stay-at-home mom; it really doesn't matter. Influence is influence.

Some leaders are really good at getting good, repeatable results. One of the reasons is that they put tremendous focus on the hidden elements within leadership.

Hidden elements are the small details, the well thought-out steps required to ensure success for their followers on the leadership journey.

Leaders set the course and the direction that others will follow. They know how to navigate versus just steering the ship. It's sometimes inevitable that you'll hit storms along the way. Good leaders can navigate through the storms and times of uncertainty. They exhibit calmness and give their people clear direction.

Have you ever had a plan fail? I'm sure each of us can answer yes to that question at some point in our lives.

The best plans are the plans where you have mitigated the risks before they occur and everyone involved is on board with the plan and in agreement to execute per the plan as it's laid out. That requires clarity and communication and focus on every little detail.

One of the leadership courses I teach is a foundational course called the 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership based on the book written by John Maxwell. In the book, the 4th Law is the Law of Navigation.

In his book, John Maxwell illustrates the Law of Navigation with the story of two different explorers in 1911 trying to be the first to reach the South Pole. Both men strive to accomplish this great task and be the first.

One explorer was a Norwegian explorer named Ronald Amundsen. He carefully focused on the hidden elements. He studied the ways of the Eskimos and used dogsleds to transport his equipment. He prepared in advance.

He carefully chose his team. They were experienced skiers and dog handlers. He carefully thought through every detail. He limited the daily time and distance travelled to make sure his team and dogs were well rested. He planned his route. He planned where he would have additional supplies, food and water. He made sure his team had the best equipment possible. He considered every possible aspect of the journey. His attention to the hidden elements paid off.

The second explorer, Robert Falcon Scott, a British Naval officer, had limited experience in the Antarctic area. His story was the exact opposite of Amundsen. He used motorized sledges and ponies. His men didn't have the right equipment. He pushed his team to the brink. All the time wanting to be the first with little regard for the men.

The ponies died. The men had to carry the equipment. His stockpiles of supplies were too far apart. Scott brought a fifth man but had only calculated enough food and supplies for four. The men became snowbound and frostbitten. They had covered over 800 miles in 10 weeks.

When they finally reached the South Pole, they found a Norwegian flag planted with a letter attached to it from Amundsen who had arrived there almost one month earlier. Scott's poor planning and lack of focus on the hidden elements caused their failure.

When you are planning, always think about the small details. One of my former managers taught me a very valuable lesson. He was a former Army helicopter pilot. When I asked what it took to learn how to fly helicopter, he said that anyone could learn to fly a helicopter straight and level. That part is easy. What they trained on was what to do when something fails.

He explained that from the time you walk up to do your pre-flight inspection, you are thinking about every part of the aircraft. You are thinking about every small detail on every part that could cause a failure. You think about every person who had a hand in preparing the equipment for you to fly. If they are not on their game, the results could be catastrophic. You think about every small detail of every person and process. The hidden elements.

I want you to especially think about the hidden elements when it comes to helping people reach their highest potential. If you have influence, you're a leader. Become a student of the hidden elements in your thinking, your behavior, your actions because your followers pay attention to you. Set a great example for them.

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