Monday, July 18, 2011

Travel Agent Leader or Tour Guide Leader

The other week I was sitting in a John Maxwell seminar and he made the observation about two types of leaders. There are the Travel Agent leader and the Tour Guide leader. I was really struck with the profound difference between the two and not only in leadership in the work place but in other areas including as parents, as sports coaches and even leaders in community groups like churches.

The Travel Agent leader is the person who says that where you are headed is great, you will experience this, see these things, have this happen to you and be aware of these problems. We have all experienced the travel agent before a journey. They give us all the information they anticipate we need and then wave us off as we embark on the journey.

The Tour Guide says hello I have been here before I know what will happen and I will use my experience and local knowledge to guide you around on your journey. Basically the tour guide holds your hand.

What sort of leader would you like to be led by? More importantly what sort of leader are you. As I pondered these questions I thought also of what sort of husband and dad am I to my family. With my oldest child just entering his teen age years how am I helping him negotiate all the new experiences he is having. Am I saying yes I was a teenager once (even though it was last century and before computers) so you will be fine? Or am I saying yes I was a teenager and it is hard and I will walk the journey with you. I need to make sure that my words match my actions.

I have to make the time to walk with him and also do the same for the other family members. Plus there are work commitments and friends to fit into the equation. I can now see why some leaders take the easy option and opt for the travel agent. What experience though has taught me that any leadership consists of a lot of hard work and very few short cuts.

The Tour Guide leader is one who gets into the trenches and gets dirty with his team and says walk with me and we will get through this. They bring confidence because they are there with their team and sharing their experience and knowledge in the hope that perhaps one day that team member may in fact become a travel agent to some one else.

As I look at some of leaders I have admired two who come to mind Allan Border and Steve Waugh as captains of the Australian Cricket team were leaders who the players new would always be in the middle of the ‘fight’. They were leaders who merely didn’t give instructions but actually played the instructions and gave them beside their team mates. It then brought a huge amount of self belief into players who at that point were struggling as players.

So I throw the thought to you as John Maxwell did to me. Are you a travel agent leader/parent/coach/minister or a tour guide? Where do you lead your team of work colleagues, church congregation and family from; from the sidelines, from behind or in front or from within? Is work different from home? I think my teenager needs me to come from beside him and no where else. He needs to learn how to take the steering wheel of his life. Work sometimes needs you from in front and /or behind as long as you are there close by when needed.
Love to hear you thoughts and experiences. Drop me a line in the comments below.