If you’re getting inspired, being productive and creating ideas and things, there’s going to come a time, sooner or later, where you realize that your ideas and things are incredibly powerful change agents, that you have a tribe of your right people whose lives could be greatly improved by your ideas and things, and that the personal joy of creating those ideas and things would be multiplied a thousand-fold if you found a way to share your creations with your right people.
But sharing your ideas and creations in a noisy world demands skilled leadership – the ability to paint a compelling vision of a better quality of life, the ability to build the trust that’ll motivate people to participate and join your journey when they do find you, and the ability to sustain that trusting relationship throughout their journey with you, especially through the toughest obstacles, so that you can take them all the way to the results that you promised them.
Depending on your personal style, your expertise, your tribe’s needs and the territory you’ll be journeying through together, I’ve found it useful to consider whether the trip calls for me to be a Tour Guide or an Expedition Leader.
The Tour Guide
Tour Guides take people to places they know well, places that have already been mapped out by many pioneers and experts. The best Tour Guides know the territory well because they’ve personally been there before and navigated the territory themselves, getting the opportunity to learn first-hand what works, what the highlights are and what’s worth focusing on. Great Tour Guides have taken time to research other people’s experiences and reports of the territory as well, and to develop a clear favored route to take people through the territory with a “must-see-and-do” list to ensure that they cover all the highlights.
As a Tour Guide, the territory you’re taking people through and the stuff you’re helping people with might have been difficult and full of uncertainties for you in the past, but it’s not anymore, now that you have a clear roadmap. And you’re well-placed to confidently share your tried and tested roadmap with other people so that they can also find their way through the territory.
As their Tour Guide, your tribe will expect you to know your territory well, and to be able to answer all their questions. Since a lot of your credibility comes from having navigated that territory successfully yourself, you’ll need to be walking your talk and demonstrating by your own results that your system works. The members of your tribe could navigate this territory by themselves but they want the highlights to be presented to them in an entertaining, memorable way without the hard work, so they’ve chosen the convenience and time-saver of following an experienced Tour Guide instead. They want you to do the think-work of figuring out how to deal with the logistics and obstacles along the way so they can get straight to experiencing the main attraction as quickly as possible.
Your job is to articulate the step-by-step process for them to follow and to make it easy for them to have the experience and get the results they want. You can do this because you’re teaching what you’ve already learned and the territory you’re navigating is fairly tangible, specific, stable and predictable. There are clear steps and “right” and “wrong” answers for navigating this kind of territory successfully so, if you’ve done your research and preparation, you can speak with authority and focus on the tasks of explaining, instructing, giving feedback and encouraging.
Tour Guide Leadership is well-suited to territory where algorithmic problem-solving is possible, for example when using technologies, deciding marketing tactics, setting up systems and operating processes, and mastering the methods for using specific tools. Tour Guide leadership is also well-suited to helping people who are total beginners in that particular territory. In short, when you’re a Tour Guide, your focus is on giving people answers.
Here are some examples of Charlie doing some Tour Guide leadership, providing clear answers and “how to” instructions, and doing the grunt work for you so you can get to the highlights (your results) as quickly and conveniently as possible:
The Expedition Leader
Expedition leaders take people to new, uncharted territory and places that are full of unpredictability, uncertainty, change and mystery – places that demand heuristic problem-solving. The Best Expedition Leaders have done, and continue to do, loads of research and learning in respect of the territory they’re navigating, so they’re also experienced Tour Guides.
But because of the nature of the territory, they still have just as many questions as answers and no matter how much they’ve figured out for themselves, they know that the real value is in enabling others to navigate the territory and invent new routes for themselves. Expedition Leaders teach what they’re busy learning because they know they’ll probably be busy learning in that territory for the rest of their lives. They’re comfortable with holding the responsibility of leadership even though they don’t have all the answers and still make plenty of mistakes applying what they know.
People who sign up for an Expedition are often experienced travelers and they aren’t looking for convenience and a quick fix. They’re looking for personal transformation and growth and they want to learn how to create for themselves. They know there aren’t easy step-by-step instructions for personal transformation and that nobody else can do the hard parts for them. As their Expedition Leader, your fellow travelers will want you to keep reminding them of their ideals and values, to keep showing them how to access and build their own resourcefulness and to keep encouraging them to think, decide and create for themselves.
Great Expedition Leaders are continually providing inspiration, helping to contain and transform fear, suggesting useful metaphors, comforting and encouraging the tribe when spirits are low, reviewing risk assessments and raising concerns and asking questions that guide people to step out and discover more of the territory and what’s possible for themselves. And because of the nature of the territory, Expedition Leaders are ready to acknowledge when they don’t know and they’re quick to admit and even highlight their mistakes so that everyone can learn from them.
Expedition Leadership is well-suited to territory where heuristic problem-solving is required, when there are many possible ways to get the results you want, in situations where we have models but no objective “truth”, and in situations where inventing your own way will increase your chances of success – territories like developing purpose and meaning in life, improving the quality of your life, and solving relationship and communication struggles, creating new products and feeling more of the happiness or peace you want to feel. When you’re an Expedition Leader, you give people better questions.
Here are some examples of Charlie doing some Expedition Leadership, focusing on eliciting what you really want, raising questions and stoking your idealism:
Which Leadership Style Are You Using, and How’s That Working Out For You?
It’s easy to see why so many entrepreneurs choose to go the Tour Guide route. When you’re starting out in business, going the Tour Guide route and taking people through the territory that’s tangible, predictable and very familiar to you can boost your personal confidence and make it easier to gain your audience’s trust by fulfilling the results you promise.
Tour packages can also be easier to sell than expeditions – not everyone wants to do the hard work of an expedition! People love to be given “how to” prescriptions and step-by-step instructions because this appeals to their desire to save time and avoid hard work – a powerful buying motivator. Sometimes people just need a quick step-by-step guide to sorting out their inbox so they can get on to using their creativity and thinking resources in other areas that really matter to them, and if you can give them that, you’ll be adding the value they’re looking for.
If the territory calls for a Tour Guide, then well and good, but if you’re a coach or creative, and certainly if you’re wanting to do any truly remarkable work, there are also going to be territories you venture into with your clients that are less certain and demand the heuristic, empowering approach of an Expedition Leader. Some territory is more complex, nuanced, unpredictable and intangible and doesn’t have “right” and “wrong” answers.
Many times the result that your client wants is the pleasure of experiencing their own responsibility, mastery and the personal transformations that come with figuring stuff out for themselves and being guided to access their own wisdom and creativity, to create their own visions and to invent their own unique solutions. That sort of territory can’t be shoved into a five-step process and you’re likely to disappoint your clients when they realize that for themselves.
If the territory calls for an Expedition Leader and you come in as a Tour Guide, trying to take people through as quickly as possible and dolling out answers, instructions and procedures rather than letting people think, discuss and discover for themselves, then you’re likely to get resistance – if there’s even anyone along for the journey in the first place! Most of us wouldn’t sign up for a “Five Steps to Happiness” program because, on some level, we recognize that there are unlikely to be five universal steps to happiness. Tour Guiding is often a safer role that coaches and creatives return to because then they can focus on predictable procedures instead of the more tricky areas of principles and meaning.
Teaching what you’re busy learning, as Expedition Leaders do, can raise a lot of personal fears and insecurities for the Expedition Leader – What if I can’t answer people’s questions and they think I’m stupid? What if something unexpected stuff happens? What if we can’t get through the hard bits? What if I disappoint my clients? What if we’re being unrealistic and we fail? What if my clients find out that this is something I’m still working on myself?”
Equally, if the Territory calls for a Tour Guide and you’re coming in as an Expedition Leader, approaching the territory as though it’s un-mapped territory that’s full of mystery, your tribe are likely to come to the conclusion that you’re incompetent and ill-prepared. Nobody wants to sign up for an experiential “Discover Your Own Way to Set Up Your Aweber Account” program where the facilitator keeps throwing the questions back to the group, “Does anyone else want to suggest what we could do next?”
Both Tour Guiding and Expedition Leadership are useful roles that can enable you to share your ideas and creations and deliver value, but their effectiveness is only realized when they’re used in the right territory. Before you set out to help people on their journeys, here’s what you need to ask yourself:
- What sort of territories are you wanting to navigate?
- Does algorithmic or heuristic problem-solving work best in those territories?
- And which mix of leadership styles would best serve your tribe as you help them to navigate those territories?