LEADERSHIP: FLOATING TO THE TOP

By: Dr. Suzanne Miklos

Leadership has a lot in common with hot air balloon rides. Last weekend, my sisters and thparents and I went on a hot air balloon ride. For those of you who have not experienced this yet, it’s certainly an adventure.  Just watching the balloon, large and vividly colored, fill with air and come to life, was a treat in and of itself. The takeoff was a little rocky as an unexpected burst of wind grabbed the balloon and dragged it before it was ready to go.  However, once we were airborne it was a beautiful, relaxing experience to see the countryside down below.  Ohio is lushly green in August, including the ponds!  Many people come out onto their porches to wave while the wildlife goes about its business.

Landing was interesting as well; there wasn’t a runway or an exact landing destination, so the balloonist had to find a good spot to land the massive craft so that the chaser crews could catch up in order to pack up the balloon and return the riders to their car.  We had the good fortune to land in a local farmer’s yard, shearing off a bit of an apple tree and nearly grazing a swing set.   The homeowners were out with small children on a four wheeler and they responded to our shouted request to land with permission.  They not only agreed, but also helped us roll up the balloon and allowed a truck to drive onto their property.  Our unprepared hosts invited us to see their blueberries and to pick fresh pears.   Ending our experience with a champagne toast accompanied by a blessing, which is the traditional celebration of a successful ride.

The following week I had the privilege to work with a leader, John, who has been struggling to create energy around a difficult region including gaining Staff support from other departments and geographic regions. People who don’t report to John and are already busy, yet they have the knowledge, data and resources to achieve important goals that John holds for the organization. A similar dilemma is when we tackle community leadership roles. Much like the balloon ride, the general direction is clear but the exact landing spot is not.  There is a blend of strategy and opportunism required to be successful.  There are many factors that are beyond our control and some interesting sightseeing along the way.

The landing requires collaboration of both people in the balloon, people on the ground and potentially people whose yards become the landing site.   When work is interesting, and engaging, and when people know they will make a difference; it is more likely for them to join in.  In these transformative times, leaders have to balance control with an ability to adapt to the present circumstance. One of our greatest powers as leaders can be that of an invitation for an adventure.