In my years working in leadership roles as well as in supporting leaders in different organizations, I have noticed a common tendency to assume that we can only get to be the best leaders we can be when the circumstances around us allow for that to happen.
If we were asked the question “what do you need to be the best leader you can be?” we might probably answer by saying something like “I am the best leader I can be when I work in small teams” or “when my boss acknowledges my work” or “when I am able to have open, honest conversations” or “when the goals and expectations are clear”, etc. Interestingly enough, in all these cases, we somehow appear to be waiting for something to happen before we are able to be the best leaders we can be.
The problem with this approach is that throughout our careers, we might actually only see ourselves in one or maybe two situations where the environment fully supports us this way. Given this, today I would like to propose the idea of the “All-Terrain” Leader (ATL). ATLs are leaders that thrive precisely because they don’t have the perfect setting or enjoy the ideal circumstances to be the best persons they can be. ATL’s have some of these characteristics:
- They acknowledge that full control is elusive and highly improbable and therefore do not even hope to achieve it.
- They are not hung up on what should not be happening, but rather on what can be done considering what is actually happening.
- They allow, get to know, and anticipate the environment.
- They thrive in not knowing rather than knowing. They keep flexible.
- They do not offer cookie-cutter solutions; rather, their approach is fresh, relevant, and sensitive to the situation.
- They listen deeply. Not out of politeness or strategy. They listen because they genuinely know that every single conversation has the potential to solve or even revolutionize the issue at hand.
So in order to become an ATL we need to begin by acknowledging that nothing needs to actually change before we can be the best leaders we can be. On the contrary, we have precisely what we need in front of us every second of every day.