Where you sit is where you stand

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The views from the top of Helvellyn are magnificent. At least, they are magnificent when the rain and the mist lift long enough to allow the sun to break through and light up a dramatic sky. From the top, you can see the hills and ridges and valleys and lakes disappearing into the distance.

Half way down the view is dramatically different. Fields and hedgerows come into perspective. It is easier to pick out houses and small villages.

By the time we got back to the B&B we were soaking, but we had time to notice ducks in the yard, the fish in the stream we had to ford and to smell dinner being cooked.

The leader may be stuck at the top of the mountain, feeling lonely and getting wet and cold. The leader’s vision may depend on local conditions. But we only have one view of the world: it is neither better nor worse than the view of other people at different levels of the same mountain. We rely on them to see different things and to act on them.

Not surprisingly, leaders spend a huge amount of time trying to find out what the view is really like at all levels of the mountain. Formal reports about the number of ducks in the yard do not help: we need to see what is really happening on the ground.

An equal challenge is to help people on different parts of the mountain recognise that their view of the world is not the only one. In organisations, where you sit is where you stand: each function and department will guard its turf jealously.

Running up and down the mountain trying to see and reconcile the different views is exhausting for leaders. But the great days make up for all those days of rain and wind.

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