For as long as I can remember I’ve been fascinated with stories of pioneers in the old west. One of my favorites was that of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark and the Louisiana Purchase. They were the first American expedition commissioned to navigate the uncharted territory covering the western United States.
Their journey began in May 1804 not far from St. Louis, Missouri. It is said that their expedition encountered just about every challenge and hardship known to man. Aside from their physical exertion and injuries, they faced many sleepless nights, illnesses, hunger, and weather conditions of all types. In the face of all they encountered, they continued to push westward reaching the Pacific Ocean in 1806. They covered some 8,000 miles of uncharted territory in three years.
Not unlike these pioneers of old, many influential visionary leaders of today are passionately blazing trails of their own; leading their organization through uncharted territories, accomplishing what has never been seen or done before. In some measure, they too have had to face challenges of every kind, such as; long hours, sleepless nights, moving forward against all odds to name a few. What these leaders and those pioneers of old have in common, is the self-denying determination to push themselves onward, and rally their teams to successfully go beyond their personal limitations.
Three Characteristics of a Pioneer Spirit
What I mean by a pioneer spirit, are those qualities within a leader that drives him or her to explore the road either less traveled or carving out a road of their own. Every leader may develop and continually improve upon those characteristics.
1) Seeing beyond the horizon
“A leader is one who sees more than others see, who sees farther than others see, and who sees before others see.” – Leroy Eimes
Leaders who focus beyond the horizon are vision bearers, like Lewis and Clark, driven to explore new territory, discovering new opportunities. Laying a foundation for future generations to build on. They push themselves and inspire their teams to always push beyond the status quo..
2) Always Be Testing Your Limits
John Maxwell aptly stated; “If we are growing we are always going to be outside our comfort zone.” Lewis and Clarke spent twenty fours a day seven days a week for three years, outside their comfort zone. To always be testing your limits means to pursue your personal best daily. Always striving at being better tomorrow than you are today. Always having gone further today than you did yesterday. This attitude requires that you learn to be comfortable living outside your comfort zone. Mapping uncharted territory requires us to go beyond what is familiar. Surround yourself with others who are always breaking new ground.
3) Become Others Oriented
Leadership by definition, must be others oriented. No one achieves greatness alone. Great leaders are noted for ability to work with teams. Lewis and Clark could’ve never succeeded without leading and relying on their team. To become others oriented, invest yourself in developing your team’s personal and corporate growth. Woodrow Wilson once said, “I not only use all the brains that I have, but all that I can borrow.” Be others oriented!
“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘what are we doing for others?’” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
Like Lewis and Clark:
- Have a compelling vision
- Develop a workable strategy
- Assemble a team of passionate lifelong learners
- Develop a culture of family
- Stand with and support your team through all situations