Lessons from the Blue Highways – Episode 1 – Alertness

Adam Steele was often considered to be America’s Business Icon.  He had achieved remarkable success in his own businesses, and American and International businesses were also run by many of his former protégés.  His thoughts on leadership were often considered to be essential wisdom for aspiring future leaders, no matter where they chose to exercise their leadership skills.

Adam’s insight on leadership did not come from college or any formal education.  Instead it came from an annual one-month tour of America’s blue highways.  When Adam was young, he was given an atlas containing maps of America’s states.  Adam was intrigued by the blue highways since they were the least travelled of all the roads in each state.

Ten years into his career, Adam decided to take a tour of the blue highways to see what he could learn.  Coming from a mountainous state, he chose to start his blue highway tour in America’s flat lands just to get a sense of a different geography.

Returning from his tour, Adam reflected on his first tour and the lessons he learned which he shared with his leadership team: “I grew up in the mountains, and I never realized how much they shaped me.  I have to admit, our roads were tough to drive on.  You could never build up any speed because there was always a sharp curve up ahead.  They were really frustrating.

I chose flat lands to begin my tour because I wanted a different driving experience.  I couldn’t get used to driving for miles without a curve in the road.  It was boring, but I did learn one of my first and most valuable leadership lessons.

On those flat roads, you could get lulled into complacency.  Before you know it, the alertness I had from driving the mountainous roads was gone.  I was on autopilot on those flat roads.

If we run our organization without being alert to the upcoming curve in the road, we are doomed to be in trouble.  While our mountainous roads are frustrating, I actually began to enjoy the challenge of thinking about what’s beyond the curve.  If you are going to be a leader, you need to thrive on uncertainty of what’s ahead.  Our organization can disrupt or be disrupted.  That’s a challenge, but it’s an even better opportunity if you develop the skill to anticipate what is around the curve.

I must admit that I didn’t realize the importance of this blue road lesson until now.  I had a choice to make.  I could have stayed in a position where I was comfortable or move beyond my comfort level.  I chose uncertainty over complacency.  The memory of driving that flat road helped me to decide.  It wasn’t an easy decision, but it was one of the most important ones I’ve ever made.  The lessons I share with you are these:

  • Be ever alert
  • Embrace uncertainty as an opportunity, not a threat
  • Manage the curves ahead

* * *

“If uncertainty is unacceptable to you, it turns into fear.  If it is perfectly acceptable, it turns into increased aliveness, alertness, and creativity.” – Eckhart Tolle (spiritual author)

How To Use

Useful guides for incorporating messages into discussion.