In 1978, I entered a special land navigation challenge hosted by our Boy Scout council. The idea was to navigate 6 miles to a designated target location, through dense woods, using only a compass. We were given a map to study for 5 minutes and plot our course, and then could take our compass but not the map. We were also toting along our camping gear and equipment. The winner would get to enjoy a peach cobbler made in a Dutch Oven, a heavy iron baking dish with lid, and bragging rights.
I already had my orienteering merit badge, so I confidently plotted the vector I needed take. Since I had never been in this area I planned to walk a straight line vector according to my trusty compass. I slogged through muck and mire in a few spots to stay on course. One time I carefully eyeballed trees on the right vector on the far side of a deep ravine in order to go the long way around and get back on track.
I anticipated that peach cobbler the whole way! This was a cinch. I arrived first at what I was sure was the target location. After about 30 minutes it occurred to me that someone else should have come in, and where was the scout leader who promised to be there ahead of us? I heard some hootin’ and hollerin’ off in the woods and ambled over cautiously.
I ended up nearly a half-mile from the target. I was last in. No peach cobbler for me. It was humiliating because I had foolishly bragged to the other guys about my superior compass navigation experience.
However, the guys were actually glad to see me, because I had volunteered to carry the dutch oven in my backpack.
Do you see why my navigation failed? The heavy cast iron dutch oven interfered with my compass needle because it shaped the magnetic field. That slight distortion meant that I was following the wrong vector; just a few degrees off but a huge displacement over six miles. Without a map I had no way to discover this error.
Leaders often don’t have a map to work with. We’re drawing it. We use a compass to navigate our way. Leaders often underestimate how much even a small vector shift changes your final destination:
So what are some positive, small vector changes you can implement to improve your self-leadership? (Self-leadership always precedes leading others.) Can you get 30 minutes more sleep on a regular basis? Walk ½ mile more a day? Spend 10 minutes a day reading some inspirational materials or spiritual literature to feed your soul? Say thank you to two more people this week? Commit to small improvements and watch them build on one another to take you to a much better place.
Leaders also need to be on the watch for “dutch ovens” that work against our desired vector. What’s lingering in your “backpack” that distorts your ability to move in a positive direction? Are there wrong ideas, assumptions, and fears which subtly affect your judgment and sap your energy? Are there malcontents and “negative Nancies” in your team who pull the focus away from the desired future?
Use small vector changes to your advantage.