Looking up & Looking down

Some recent thoughts on leadership from Rich Robinson:

As our family are getting settled in to life here in Edinburgh, I have been reflecting on some of our new routines. A regular part of the day for me is my commute to work that now takes the form of a 20 minute cycle through the city. Thankfully I am yet to fall off!

Biking to the office in the morning is often a joy. And a challenge. I love it. And I hate it. As part of my desire to embrace discipline, I have set myself to ride in everyday and, regardless of the weather(!), I am doing it.

Whilst on my bike, I have been struck by the mental disciplines of riding which, to a large degree, determine my physical performance. I have noticed the relationship that exists between my mind and my eyes – how what I do with one can affect the other. In particular, I have been thinking about what happens when I look up and when I look down as I ride along.

If I look up to see a long uphill stretch of road ahead, it can either inspire me to go for it or the dread fills me and my legs begin to express the ‘we will never make it’ syndrome! When I look up and see the downhill before me, my heart leaps, my legs relax and there is joy & exhilaration as I am carried along by the decline.

There are now parts of my route, as I get to know it well, where I just have to get my head down, concentrate on my pedalling and breathing and keep going. It’s about rhythm and perseverance – doing the basics well – rather than looking ahead to see how far I have still to go.

It has to be a combination of both looking up and looking down.

As leaders there are times when looking up and looking ahead is key. It sets the direction (where we are going) and charts a path (how we will get there). It helps us to see the challenge or opportunity ahead of us and helps us get our bearings or give us perspective. We shouldn’t always be looking down – thinking only about the mechanics and forgetting the destination.But we cannot – and should not – always be looking up. There are times when we need to get our head down and do ‘the hard yards’. Sometimes what is required is to focus on the basics at hand, concentrate hard on each step and make sure we are doing exactly what is needed to keep going.

So I’m learning that it’s about both looking up and looking down.

Both are rightand good. But both can be unhelpful at points. It is all about timing.

I wonder where you are in your journey right now? Do you need to spend time looking up, regaining direction and perspective? Or do you know that it’s time to focus on each step and persevere towards the destination?


We recently published this content in our 3DM Europe Newsletter. If you would like to subscribe to our newsletter and hear about what’s going on across the movement and these kinds of latest thoughts from Rich, you can sign up here

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