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Lessons on Leadership by Lewis & Clark (Preparing vs. Planning)

Lessons on Leadership by Lewis & Clark (Preparing vs. Planning)

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Published by Jay Badry

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Published by: Jay Badry on Jul 06, 2010
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Working Title: Lessons on Leadership by Lewis & Clark  
 Preparing vs. Planning 
By: Jay W. BadryWord Count: 1,541When Early American explorers, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark headed west onAugust 31, 1803, they had no way of knowing what lay ahead. No white man who ever traveledthat territory had written of, mapped out or left any kind of record to guide the band of bravemen. They had no idea of the dangers and challenges they would face.Where were the rivers located; the rapids; the water falls? Were the tribes of Indians theywould encounter hostile or friendly? Would they discover wild and dangerous beasts waiting totake their lives? What about the plants; were they poisonous or nutritious?These and many other questions surely filled their minds, but they had no answers. Howcould they possibly
 plan
for the unknown? The answer is they couldn’t! No one can create acontingency plan for the unimaginable. The best they could do was
 prepare
for any contingencyand adapt to every situation that arose.One innovation illustrates how these creative leaders approached their expedition. Lewisand Clark needed to carry sufficient gun powder and shot for the extensive journey, but how
 
could they possibly keep barrels of powder dry while going down unexplored rivers or shootingunknown rapids? They decided to carry the gun powder in lead containers. This would not onlykeep the powder dry, but the container could actually be melted down for shot.According to World Book Encyclopedia™: “During the summer of 1803, Lewis spenttime studying in Philadelphia. He learned how to classify plants and animals and how todetermine geographical position by observing the stars. He then went to Pittsburgh,Pennsylvania, and, in late August, left the city in a large flat-bottomed boat... Near Louisville,Ky., he was joined by Clark, who had been recruiting men from nearby Army posts. For theexpedition, the explorers chose skilled woodsmen and hunters who were accustomed to manuallabor and military discipline. Most of the men were soldiers.” Notice how one leader familiarized himself as best he could with the possible conditionsand challenges they would face: plants, animals, determining direction, etc. The other leader sought men that matched the demands of the journey: military men with extensive back-woodsexperience who could be led. Preparing for an organization’s future will require just this kind of leadership. Some will serve in development or marketing while others will need to seek thosemen and women who are up to the challenge and organize them in a way that benefits the overallobjectives of the organization. This is more than developing a business plan.The difference between planning and preparing is more than merely semantic. Planningassumes a known and static reality while preparing assumes the potential, even probability of chaos and catastrophe. Planning works in situations where one can clearly see and anticipatefuture events. But life is rarely that predictable. As one commercial reminds us, “Life comes atyou hard and fast.”
 
Preparation, on the other hand is much more fluid and adaptive. Preparation
expects
to be surprised by future events and is thereby, less surprised by them and more likely to adapt toand absorb the unexpected.The cry of companies and corporations today is, “We’ve got to be more nimble!” And nowonder. The economic climate is filled with storms and the winds of adversity. The volatility of the markets can be frightening and the landscape of business has become so tied to a globaleconomy that events halfway around the world can impact even small-town American commercein a matter of weeks or even days.And corporate success is no safeguard against these rapidly changing forces. In fact,success can actually foster new challenges which must be addressed and met. The father of modern management, Peter F. Drucker wrote, “Success always makes obsolete the very behavior that achieved it. It always creates new realities. It always creates, above all, its own anddifferent problems. Only the fairy tale ends, ‘They lived happily ever after.’” Forget the ideathat only stagnant companies with depressed profits or rising tides of red ink need adapt tomarket forces.In order for the 21
st
Century organization to flourish in the modern era, they must havethose who are constantly scanning the horizon. At times, they will be able to anticipate thewinds of change while at other times they will need to quickly assess and adapt to theunexpected. It will take special people to meet this challenge; men and women of creativity andvision who are not shackled to past systems and protocols no matter how well they have servedthe organization.The need is for strategic thinkers and strong leaders who will be entrusted with positioning the organization for maximum impact. They will be tasked with, not only the job of 

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