Leadership is not linear. It’s not what they teach you in school. Case studies are artificially neat and clean.
Rather, good leaders have honed situational awareness skills that constantly absorb, process, and adjust to changing dynamics and variables. They recognize the complex system of politics, individual motivations, group dynamics, external forces, and technical matters as well as their ability to react to and influence those variables as situations develop.
We bring clarity to things by setting goals, understanding and communicating objectives, and laying out a logical path forward – project plans with milestones, dates, and resources assigned. That’s all crucial, but insufficient. Leadership is needed to move the initiative forward into and through an environment that’s constantly changing (sometimes in big ways, and always in small ways). Those leaders who have a “feel” for this, who have the intuition to “read” and adjust to situations – those are the ones who get you through successfully.
Plans are good, but not good enough. Leadership must remain focused, but the path forward is always somehow divergent in unanticipated ways. That’s what makes leadership difficult. But also what makes it interesting, challenging, and fun.
Tune your situational awareness. It’s the best, most important skill you can develop as a leader.