On our drive back from “Up North” yesterday I had a little quiet time. Part of the drive includes zero cell coverage. During that same part of the road trip the boys each had their own things going on. Dominic doing homework and Gavin was reading. I popped in an earbud and fired up an audiobook. I finished The Wim Hof Method (I’d highly recommend it!) and went back to the fiction I had been reading intermittently, Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card.
After seeing how much Becky and Gavin enjoyed it I decided to add it back to the rotation of books. In my second reading I caught so much more of the action and found it to be an even more fulfilling experience than the first time around. All the details that I didn’t quite put together the first time added a rich complexity as the plot unfolded during the second reading.
What really caught my attention yesterday was a leadership lesson I’d forgotten from the first time I read it. The lesson itself is relatively buried but shined like gold when I read it this time.
Long story short (& without spoilers), there’s a point in Ender’s training in which he moves up to controlling a ship. He then moves up into having a squadron. After a while he grows into an entire fleet. At first he continues to act the same as before, attempting to control the battles himself, thinking in all directions at once, and taking action alone. He quickly finds that he needs others to help him and he cannot rely on his own abilities alone. Once the team of leaders are in place he has to trust them, coach them, mentor them, and give them the space, freedom, and flexibility they need while also giving them the direction, vision, and strategy they also need at the same time. In doing so he learns to let go of control in order to maintain control. It’s an interesting study in delegation. There was also a lot more which I won’t get into at risk of spoiling the story for others.
This concept is one I’ve struggled with often in my career. I like to do things myself. Seeing the way he grew reminded me of own career path and helped me zoom out to see what great would really look like. As with many times when I look across the wide expanse that is the distance between who I am and who I am called to be this is one of the lessons that could help me reduce the distance a bit.
I’m thankful for that advice I got long ago to read a combination of business/self-improvement, biography, and fiction. Initially I had my doubts on the importance of fiction, but days like today remind me of their ability to help us see something from “real life” in a very different light. Today it helped me grow.