Leadership Is All About Getting Lost

I know summer is just beginning, but I just returned from my most exciting vacation ever! We decided to explore the South of France without a tour or even a guide. I was determined to do my critical research and create an itinerary that would include both historical places as well as fun in the sun. For months I planned this precious journey with precision and specification, leaving no detail unturned. I had a printed itinerary with each day’s activities, including the restaurants we would dine in each night. I was ready to tackle the roads from Provence to the Riviera with everything in place. So as the plane took off, I breathed a sigh of contentment- the time was finally here for me to enjoy all my hard labor. My plan was in place! Charge! Well not exactly.

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The thing about France is that there are so many roundabouts and so many parallel roads that one can easily get lost. Add to that, a GPS that malfunctions and what resulted was a “J” (Myers-Briggs) totally going berserk! All my well thought out plans went out the window and I was lost, in many ways. After my initial feelings of panic and feeling totally out of my comfort zone in a foreign land, I stepped back, took a deep breath and started to focus. I knew I had to regroup, recalibrate and give into being lost. It was at that point, my spectacular journey began for real.

Getting lost was the missing piece of my adventure. 

Getting lost allowed me to see different viewpoints.

Getting lost opened my mind to a whole new journey.

The same can be said of leadership- sometimes we learn the most and lead the best when we allow ourselves to get lost. Here’s why:

Leaders can become myopic- Did you ever feel like you were overly consumed with one particular perspective of an issue? You knew it wasn’t working or that something had to be changed, but you were unable to find an alternative approach. You addressed all the bullet points, but still were not resolving the situation in the best possible way. The truth is you needed to get lost and view the challenge from a fresh perspective. 

Leaders hate to stray from an agenda- When you meet with people, you want to make sure you cover all of your essential points, so you devise a meticulous agenda. You keep that agenda in front of you at all times in order to stay on track. Different items crop up during the discussion and all of a sudden you are caught off guard. You went into the meeting knowing what you had to accomplish, but the dialogue starts to go in a direction you had not planned. New and very relevant concerns are brought up and you sense the passion from another. Do you stick to your well thought-out list or do you just get lost?

Leaders have a hard time giving up ownership: When you work hard on a project and you are near the finish line, it can feel satisfying. I felt this way about my itinerary after I had put so much time and research into it. Then, a change happens, and the project needs to move in a different direction. You did not see this coming nor did you anticipate the shift. It can feel frustrating, yet you know you must swivel. This is the time to get lost. This is the moment that a true leader emerges, reaching out for other people’s suggestions and letting go of the initial path.

Leadership is all about getting lost.

Have you ever gotten lost while leading? How did that feel and what did you do?

14 Responses to “Leadership Is All About Getting Lost”


  • Awesome post Terri. Welcome back. I relate to what you have described here – in my journey as an entrepreneur, when certain planned paths haven’t quite added up and if is time to swivel. You bring out relevant points. To me, Point no 1 is my favorite.

    Thank you for sharing your journey Terri.

    Loved your post.

  • Hello Terry!
    I think it is ok to get lost sometimes that too with unforeseen,unavoidable situations like you encountered with.But in good leadership,this should not happen frequently,especially when dealing with sensitive issues.
    In fact,leaders must be determined to commit to commitments & come back on track if deviated.

    Thanks.

    Kind Regards,

    Pratap

  • Hi Terri

    I loved the post … and who would have thought that you were a ‘J’ … said the ENFP! I smiled hugely [sorry] at the thought of this highly detailed plan going to bits on a roundabout ~ I’ve driven in France many times, so know exactly what this might entail ~ and without a reliable GPS … hmm …! I also loved the leadership lessons that you drew from it.

    I’d like to add three conclusions of my own from your brilliant story ~ leaders demonstrate resilience in the face of adversity; they demonstrate flexibility in their positive response to adversity and they demonstrate agility in their thinking and actions in overcoming adversity.

    In my view there is nothing quite like a bit of chaos to really get you energised! I trust in my skills, abilities and knowledge and the support of great colleagues to overcome issues as they arise … and learn as I address each and every one.

    I am delighted that you’ve just experienced the most exciting holiday ever … and made it home safely! Thanks for sharing your story and learning!

  • Great post, Terri! Not only can I relate but also love the leadership lessons that you draw from the experience of getting lost. Plans absolutely get us from point A to point B but getting lost can take us someplace new, unexpected and much richer than we ever expected. It can feel so scary while you’re in it but letting go and going with the flow are important leadership skills to cultivate. What better place to practice than on vacation!

  • Great points, Terri. At times, we look for the book to guide us through a challenge or develop a strategy. Or, we we engage consultants to help us find the answer. What may be better is to sit down, listen, think, and do from comes from our own thinking, our own interactions, and our own learnings. Although all the external resources can help, we just need to dive in, get lost, and find our own path.

    A great message! Hope your vacation was fantastic, which it sounds like it was….

    Jon

  • I’m actually quite comfortable with swivelling, changing direction, adapting on the fly, adjusting sails. I think it probably comes from my athletic coaching background, where the best laid plans must constantly be adjusted to the athlete’s progress, state of mind, peaking requirements and physical condition.

    “Getting lost while leading” can actually be a blessing, because it reminds you that our ability to be adaptive, chameleon-like, flexible and confident in the face of change is actually what leadership is all about. Cheers! Kaarina

  • Although I had an amazing trip, I am glad to be back, Lalita! Being an entrepreneur does test our ability to be agile and switch gears when things need to be changed. In terms of being myopic, leaders can be narrow-minded and we need to try to keep our eyes open to alternatives. Thanks so much for your wonderful additions!

  • Thanks Pratap for stopping by and adding your insightful comments. Leaders do have to adjust quickly when they need to change directions. They need to think on their feet and remain open-minded to make a shift. Thanks again. Terri

  • Good post! I think getting lost definitely helps viewing something from a different perspective. Too many times we’re afraid of losing control but we can learn so much from letting go a bit.

  • Thanks John, my ENFP friend, coming from your ENFJ friend! I am a solid “J” but love to experience life and all it has to offer- just in a more organized way. Ha! I could tell you understand completely the insanity of the roundabouts in France. Whose idea were those?
    Your additions are right on point! Leaders do encounter challenges daily and most definitely need to adjust their sails to overcome them. Interesting how much you enjoy chaos. I, on the other hand, look at chaos and spend enormous amounts of time reconfiguring it to make absolute sense. I so appreciate your enthusiasm and support!

  • First of all Alli, I loved seeing you today and getting a chance to connect in person! I look forward to our continued friendship and spending time laughing and strategizing together! I appreciate your ever inspiring thoughts, as we do learn and grow from being in uncomfortable places. Letting go is not always easy but as you point out, can really be worth the risk. I certainly had a lot of practice on my vacation! Thanks for being you!

  • It was a great vacation, Jon and I did learn so much about myself during the trip. Books and people can only teach us so much, as we learn the most from our missteps and mistakes. We don’t often take the time to listen to ourselves in figuring out the best path forward. I think if leaders allowed others to map out their own journey and not just repeat what has been done in the past, we would have a lot more creative outcomes and innovations.Thanks for all your wonderful additions! Terri

  • Thanks Kaarina for your great points! I didn’t realize you were an athletic coach. What did you coach? But yes, we are constantly being asked to make changes along the way and the more adept we are at being flexible and agile, the more satisfying our leadership will be. I loved how you equated getting lost to being a blessing, for it really affords us the opportunity to experiment and try new ways of doing things. I do appreciate all your additions and taking the time to share them. Thanks! Terri

  • You are right Rich that we can sometimes be so fearful of losing control that we panic when it happens. However, there is so much we can learn from those situations and those teachings help when we are out of our comfort zone again. Thanks for stopping by!

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