We have had some incredible amounts of snow for the first couple of weeks here in Helsinki. Sure it gets cold and there is a fair amount of snow each year, but rarely does it come this early in the year. We have gotten well over 50cm (20 inches) of snow in a relatively short amount of time. Many people take public transportation and walk, no matter the weather. Residential hazard of living within a 10 hour drive of the Arctic Circle. I must admit that Finnish people just carry on with life no matter the weather. Even the restaurants stay busy!

leadership snowOne of the most interesting things is how quickly you are able to see the most common routes of foot traffic in the snow. It begins with a single path big enough for one, maybe two, people to walk. As the demand gets higher for more space, people begin to walk on the edges of the path and more snow becomes compacted, assuming its role as part of the path.

I couldn’t help but recognize this as a parallel to how leadership is meant to operate often times. As leaders, we aren’t called to stay safely in the middle of the path. If we do, then only a few people can continue to travel along the same course. I found myself walking on the edges of the path to widen it as much as possible; so more people could use it. The wider the path, the less congested it became and more useful it turned out to be.

When we walk on the edges of whatever paths we happen to be on, we have a similar effect in our respective organizations and communities. We widen the possibilities, make things less congested and encourage more people to join in our journey along the same path.

Here are some ideas to help walk on the edge of the path within your leadership journey.

  • Be prepared – I needed boots to walk in such amounts of snow. I had to think ahead, invest in something and use it at the appropriate time. Think of what it will take to make the desired path more accessible to others, invest in making that happen and understand the right time to implement this. Some of it may be reactive at times, but planning for it makes it much more enjoyable.
  • It’s ok to fall down – The snow on the side of the path made it more difficult to walk. It was uneven and quite slippery. Falling in the snow isn’t the most pleasant experience in the world, but it’s not really that big of a deal. You may have some uncertain footing as you expand things, but enjoy the process. If you fall down, know you’re doing it for a good cause and learn to laugh at yourself a bit.
  • Be patient and persistent – My one little pass on the side of the snow path didn’t make much of a dent. It wasn’t until after a number of trips along the same path, with help from a few other people doing the same thing, that the path actually became wider. As with most things in leadership, there is little immediate change visible from your actions. Let your actions take time to settle and impact what is important. And, by all means, feel free to recruit others to help. It shortens the timeline a bit.
  • Make it fun – Walking on the edge of the path gave me great access to some fresh, wet snow. When I was walking with my wife, I got to make some great snowballs. She even caught a few in the back. When we get a little off the beaten path, we can find new ways to enjoy our journey. Don’t pass up the opportunity to take advantage of these new things to make the effort a bit more enjoyable.

What about you? What would you add to this list?