Three Boundary-Busters Every Leader Must Face

You’re the same today as you will be in five years except for two things: the people you meet and the books you read. – Charlie “Tremendous” Jones

About 350 years ago, as the story is told, a shipload of travelers landed on the northeast coast of America. The first year they established a town site. The next year they elected a town government. The third year the town government planned to build a road five miles westward into the wilderness.

In the fourth year the people tried to impeach their town government because they thought it was a waste of public funds to build a road five miles into a wilderness. Who needed to go there anyway?

Here we had people who had the vision to see three thousand miles across an ocean and overcome great hardships to get there but in a few short years were not able to see even five miles out of town. They had lost their pioneering vision. They were unable to move beyond their current boundaries.

If not careful, we too can get stagnant where we are and not move forward with fresh thinking and ideas. Expanding your borders as a leader and as an organization is about growth. Will your current way of thinking cause you to move forward in a positive way? Are you placing limits on the possibilities that could be yours? Here are three boundary busters that I think held the people back 350 plus years ago that could be holding you back today.

Having a big vision without the big picture.

Initially the people knew what they were signing up for and went along. But the vision that took them 3,000 miles at the start would not take them five additional miles at the end. Buy-in at the beginning of your vision is imperative but if there is no big picture to motivate your people to its completion it’s tragic.

An unfulfilled vision will frustrate you as a leader and disillusion your people.  If you want to expand your boundaries beyond where you are today then your people must see the big picture. Open it up to them. Let them see the steps in the process and why they are needed. Do your people know your ten year plan? How about a five year plan? Do you know it? When your vision is clear then the big picture will make sense but not until then. If you want your followers to know it then it’s up to you as the leader to share it.

Limitless possibilities constrained by limited accomplishment.

The first few years these new travelers did what was necessary. They established a town site and government. By all accounts they were making progress. But a shift happened. Their thinking changed. What do you suppose happened? My guess is that the urgency of the vision that brought them there has now settled and they have become comfortable.

Complacency is a threat to any organization and leader. When you allow yourself and those you lead to “auto-pilot” their work, goals, or expectations then you have become settled. You may not be losing ground but you are certainly not gaining any. The townspeople could not see the big picture because they were comfortable. Never mind that they could have expanded their borders and improved their way of life. So long as you are comfortable where you are you will never expand your borders.

Small thinking in the face of great possibility.

Surely there was more to the 3,000 mile journey than a cozy little township. Was not surviving the hardships of sea now worth greater exploration? Expanding your borders is not about settling. Do you not have new trails to blaze? Do you not have new discoveries to make?  Sadly, in the face of such great opportunity were those who were ready to obstruct progress.

The lesson learned here is this: Not everyone who starts with you will finish with you. Not everyone will pay the price to go to the next level. The greater the sacrifice the fewer your numbers will be. Many will want to bask in your accomplishments but not all will help you get there. But leaders understand this and will not hold it against them. It is the point of separation. If you want to expand your boundaries as a leader you must be willing to pay the price. Sometimes you will travel alone. But your possibilities are there for the taking if you are willing to lead the way.

What do you say?


© 2014 Doug Dickerson

If you enjoy reading Doug’s leadership insights you will especially enjoy his books, Leaders Without Borders & Great Leaders Wanted! Order them at