Up, Down, and All Around—Trolley Cars and Leadership

I’m in Lisbon for a month, feeling what it’s like to live in a neighborhood (Santos-o-Velho), explore new sights in a new culture, and continue my work. One big thing I’ve noticed about Lisbon is you must look up, down and sideways if you are really going to take in the beauty of the city…and live to tell about it. 

You must look up. On almost every block there are buildings fronted with colorful tiles that you will miss if you don’t scan up.

You must look down. Many sidewalks are inlaid with intricate patterns of light granite and black basalt that you don’t want to miss. 

And, you must look side to side. Many of the streets are very narrow and steep, and the sidewalks more so. Fortunately, Portuguese drivers seem to have a far higher patience level than I’m used to from American drivers on busy city streets.  Like a sixth sense to anticipate when a walker is going to suddenly pop out of a tiny alleyway and they must stop short. Remembering to look all around, I’ve avoided a few near side-swipes with one of the ubiquitous yellow Lisbon trolleys plummeting down the steep streets. 

Scanning up, down, and all around–Just like leaders at any level must do. 

Scanning Up:  What do your higher ups need from you, your team? How do convert what you are doing into something that is useful for them? Most executives want to know what time it is, not how to build the clock. 

Scanning Down: What are your people doing? What do they need (collectively and individually) to achieve their best? 

Scanning Sideways: What do your peers do? What do they need from you, your team? Are there ways where they can benefit from what you do and vice versa? Who is a strategic relationship that needs to be nurtured?  Who impacts your effectiveness? If you are the head of digital marketing, the technology office and its priorities may be critical to you achieving your goals. Ignore this relationship and you are at risk of being side swiped.  

Lisbon City streets…. a reminder of what it takes to lead well.  

What’s Up, Down, and Sideways in your world?


Photo Credit: JMaliszewski, 2018. Trolley car, building with tile front, black and white sidewalk in Lisbon.


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