The GPS of Leadership

by Paul Sloane

GPS of LeadershipIf you want to be a better leader then take a look at the satellite navigation system, or GPS, in your car (Sat Nav for my UK readers). Here is what it can teach:

  1. The GPS stays focused on the destination. Regardless of blocked roads, obstacles, traffic and diversions it continues to focus on finding a way of reaching the strategic goal – the destination. In the same way a great leader continues to focus on the vision and the strategic goal despite short-term tactical difficulties.
  2. The GPS is flexible about how to get there. It is not committed to one way of reaching the destination; it is quite happy to find a different way when necessary. Likewise the leader should be committed to the goals but open-minded about how to achieve them.
  3. The GPS stays calm no matter what. Even if the driver and passengers screw up all the instructions the GPS remains unemotional and supportive. It never gets angry or loses its temper. A good leader is calm and reassuring with his or her team even when they get things wrong or hit problems.
  4. The GPS updates the driver on progress and directions. A good leader continually communicates with the team to emphasize the importance of reaching the goal, what the next steps are and how they can play their role in getting there.

Of course there are many other skills and attributes that a great leader needs. But staying focused on the goal, being calm, being flexible and communicating well are absolutely essential. Become a GPS Leader and take your team to its destination.

Open Innovation and Crowdsourcing

Don’t miss an article (2,350+) – Subscribe to our RSS feed or join us on Twitter or LinkedIn!


Paul SloanePaul Sloane writes, speaks and leads workshops on creativity, innovation and leadership. He is the author of The Innovative Leader published by Kogan-Page.

No comments

  1. The GPS will not know that the river crossing is flooded but it will still lead you there: the good leader / innovator knows when to quit, turn round or refocus. Stubbornly trying to achieve a strategic objective “come what may”, even though circumstances have changed, is a great way to waste resources.

    The GPS will try to lead your truck down lanes that are too narrow: the good innovator will not *rely* on “leadership guidance” but will trust and follow their own instincts and advocate change of strategy / destination / way-points if necessary.

    The GPS is error prone: it can’t easily tell if you’re on the bridge or on the road beneath; it’s susceptible to errors in satellite clocks and orbits, in disturbances in the ionosphere and troposphere, from signal reflections from ground-based structures and it doesn’t work at all in “urban canyons” and other signal-shielded areas.

    IMHO, Leadership that DOES behave like a GPS – oblivious to what’s going on in the real world, deaf to the opinion of the people doing the work and easily fooled by atmospheric interference – is BAD leadership.

    DON’T be a GPS leader – be the human Navigator. For sure be calm and be focused. But be prepared to refocus. Join the team on the journey – ride with them – see what they see – and use your leadership skills to see beyond that – trust the team and they will trust you.

  2. Paul C makes some fair points however the basic message is right on the button the challenge for leaders is building the GPS route map which is something we do at What If? Specialist and our What If? Forums for Change

  3. I absolutely agree about the need for a route map.

    My point is that it is better to get the destination, route map and the criteria by which to plan and monitor progress by continually updated “hands-on” intelligence gathering – something that “GPS thinking” can’t do.

    Criteria include more than just “fastest” or “shortest distance”. Often the choice of way-points and duration of pauses is vital … for example if the goal is “Product with feature list XYZ” do you aim to launch only when all are ready – or is there a market for just “Y”? And will buyers of “Y” then signal that they want “W” next – and so your destination needs to change long before you get there.

    The total journey may be slower and need more investment before payback – but with a carefully managed release strategy and dynamic objective (re)setting the ultimate RoI is higher.

    GPS can support the wise leader in decision-making and modelling.

    But fixation on an objective that may well be obsolete before you arrive, with progress managed by “GPS thinking” can’t deliver outcomes from a plan that needs input (both to formulate and to monitor) to which GPS alone has no access.

    I stand by my point. DON’T be a GPS leader – be the human Navigator.

Leave a Reply