I am writing this while sitting on the seventh and final airplane in 1.5 weeks! If you’re curious I’ve gone from Toronto to Germany to Toronto to Florida and now I’m on my way home. Phew! I’m ready to be home again in a few hours.

My intention for this trip

If you do any amount of air travel you know stuff happens. Flight delays, lost luggage, missed connections, crowds, other passengers, flight attendants and more. There are so many variables at play, that I can’t imagine a scenario where things go perfectly to plan.

Before leaving I set an intention for this trip to remain free, powerful and at choice no matter what happens. More specifically, I would not spend my time evaluating what’s happening around me. I would accept everything as just a part of the adventure.

For example, the plane departed Berlin almost an hour late. Delays haven’t bothered me for a long time. However, in this case, my connection through Iceland was 1 hour 10 minutes. This means I would only have 10 minutes between flights. If I missed my connection I might be stuck in Iceland for 24 hours until the next flight to Toronto.

I’ve been in this position before and found myself fixated on the delay. Whose fault is this? If only the airline cared more about me! What if … what if … what if! The Florida part of my trip was important to me, so it would have been easy to fall into old habits of stressing over the delay.

Instead, I decided I can deal with whatever happens when I get there. No amount of worrying, evaluating or stressing would change the situation.

I spent the 3.5-hour flight deep into my writing. I worked on my book, drafting a new chapter I had been thinking about. I was listening to instrumental jazz enjoying the clouds whipping by seemingly just below the airplane. I arrived in Iceland totally relaxed.

On arrival, I decided I would not run like a crazy person through the terminal. Instead, I walked at a good pace, got through passport control and to my airplane in time for the final boarding call.

The best part, I felt great and relaxed for the remainder of my trip.

The impact of evaluation

Evaluation is when you place something into a bucket. Good, bad, better, worse, right, wrong. In doing this, we naturally tighten our grip as we try to control the situation.

Take my flight to Iceland being delayed. I could have told myself this was bad and pushed past my fellow passengers to get on the airplane sooner. I could have told myself the airline is terrible for inconveniencing me this way. I could have been upset at the slow movement of the jetway in Iceland. I could have told myself I didn’t really want to go to Florida anyways, which was not true.

In choosing to travel by air, I choose to accept everything that happens on the journey. Fellow passengers who are stressed, delayed flights, missed connections, lost luggage and much more. These are all a part of the experience of air travel. Given I am choosing to travel by air, I get to choose how I respond to what happens.

Obviously, no amount of stressing would have changed what was happening on that flight. So rather than trying to control something I cannot control, why not look at it for what is true?

If I’m delayed I get to be creative in how I can still get to Florida for the retreat I wanted to attend. Failing that I might get to see a bit of Iceland, which I have yet to visit. No matter what happens, I know things will be fine.

Leadership is your ability to respond

Leadership is much like air travel. There are countless factors you cannot control which have an impact on you and your teams.

Yet, too often leaders focus on trying to control what might happen. This is the source of countless corporate processes in the name of controlling the outcomes. Yet, no matter how many processes you layer in the problems continue to fester.

I can picture myself working countless hours in my past, in the name of trying to control things I had little/no control over. I was stressed, my blood pressure was high, and I lost lots of sleep. Despite my attempts to control, things still happened. Does this sound like strong leadership?

What if, you put your energy into responding to what actually happens, rather than trying to control what might happen. Use just enough process to move the team towards a common outcome accepting things will happen along the path. Then, build and rely on the ability in you and your team to respond to whatever happens.

Building this ability to respond is exactly what I would do in my prior roles as an Agile Coach. I would help teams learn to use just enough process to move their project in the right direction with structure. Then, we would put in just enough process to quickly make visible the things that got in our way.

In doing this it became easier to see and respond to problems. Better yet, it became increasingly easier for the team to respond to problems without the need for my involvement.

This is leadership. Building the ability to respond to whatever happens in both you and your followers. When you do this, you will suddenly find you are sharing in the leadership of the team. This is what creates the potential for high performing teams.

Leadership is a journey. It doesn’t have to be so stressful or difficult. Sit back and enjoy the ride, knowing you have what it takes to respond to whatever happens.