The Odyssey of Leadership

When we cross turbulent seas and navigate uncharted territory, real or metaphorical, an ally can be extremely valuable in avoiding the reefs and walking each other home.

Frédéric Bagutti

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J. M. Turner, Ulysses Deriding Polyphemus, 1829

When a leader becomes aware of a gap between where they are and where they want to be, they can consider making a concerted effort to move and intentionally address the change that was already seeking to manifest itself. They are now inhabited, like the famous poet Paul van Ostaijen, by the question: “What can I do that has not yet been done?” They too hum in the morning shower: “I want to be naked / and begin.

Sometimes the catalyst for change seems to be a particular event, repeated comments from colleagues, or simply a feeling of malaise that uncomfortably prolongs into a sensation that thinking is blocked and stuck in a loop.

Departure is the first step of the journey, as the leader recognizes their need for change as a call from afar and dares to leave behind some of the ways of operating that were previously comfortably familiar. The second step is the actual journey, a period of transition during which the leader travels through landscapes shrouded in mist and enveloped in fog. They encounter obstacles and face trials that open a path to transformation. Free, they have the right to be confused and make errors. Finally, there is the return, during which the leader gradually, almost imperceptibly, arrives at a new understanding of who they are and what kind of leader they want to be.

The leader who dares to take time out of the shadows of the “strategic control room” to contemplate the territory as a whole, beyond the map, and acquire new perspectives from “the top of the mast”, accelerates the deployment of the change process. By taking a higher view, they face the situation more globally, discover the perimeter of obstacles that previously seemed insurmountable, learn more about their inevitable failures, and gain a better understanding of what triggers their sudden impulses as well as their final decisions that had seemed so well thought out.

By regularly taking the time to consider the environment from new perspectives, confronting long-dreaded and sometimes unsuspected questions, facing the…

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Frédéric Bagutti

Organizational behavior consultant and executive coach, licensed psychologist, EMCCC INSEAD. You can find me at: www.bagutticonsulting.com