As a leader, at one point or another, you may have felt trapped by circumstance. Maybe you felt bound by red tape, frozen inside a political battle or constrained by the past. When all you can see are limitations, chances are you’re not able to lead anybody.
So how can you lead when you feel trapped? How can you create your own path and step into a place of possibilities and promise?
When you get stuck, it’s because you don’t see that you have choices. You see only one option before you, maybe two. But even with two options, you’re facing an either/or choice. That’s not a very liberating place from which to operate. So what can you do in times like these when it seems there’s no way forward?
“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” – Marcel Proust
The next time you feel completely stymied, take a lesson from design thinking and embrace the practice of ideation. This is where you open your mind wide to new ideas and possibilities. Generate as many solutions to the problem as you can possibly imagine, even ones that sound off-the-wall. Think of the problem like you’re looking at it through a kaleidoscope: Examine it, shift your position, and take another look.
When starting this kind of practice, you may find yourself bumping up against your own “No’s.” That’s normal. Put wild ideas on a white board. Have fun with them. Alfred North Whitehead said, “A silly question is the first intimation of some totally new development.” Ask yourself, “What if…?” The sillier the question, the more likely you are to create a new path for yourself.
Once you have all of your ideas out on the board, challenge yourself to come up with one or two more. Those are usually the good ones! Now look at all of those ideas. You have choices! And once you have choices, you can step into leadership once again. You see, when you’re truly leading, you’re never a victim of circumstance. When you’re leading, you create your own story.