Are You LOST as a Leader?

Ok, I have to admit it. I’m a “Lostie,” a fan of the recently concluded sci-fi, psychological drama TV series LOST. If you’re not familiar with the show, it’s about the experiences of the survivors of Oceanic Flight 815 that crashed over an unknown island in the South Pacific Ocean.

LOST was famous for rabbit trail plots, untold secrets, and being the proverbial puzzle wrapped in a mystery inside a conundrum. But when all was said and done, the underlying narrative to LOST was the relationships formed among all the characters and the life they shared together.

I couldn’t help but see the leadership implications of the show’s theme, and in particular, the line of dialogue in the series finale between Christian Shephard and his son Jack, the “leader” of the group of survivors. Christian is speaking to Jack (both of whom are “dead”) about the purpose of the survivors of Oceanic Flight 815 being gathered together in the “afterlife.”

“The most important part of your life was the time you spent with these people. That’s why all of you are here. Nobody does it alone, Jack. You needed all of them and they needed you.”

The premise is clear for leaders – It’s all about relationships!

As leaders we sometimes get LOST. We begin our leadership journeys with excitement, flying high over the ocean with idyllic dreams of leading people to accomplish great things. But then something interrupts our trip and we find ourselves dealing with all sorts of challenges that can become distractions if not placed in the proper perspective. Whether it’s the impending budget deadline, scheduling the next meeting, or completing the latest project, it’s easy to lose focus of what is most important – people!

In The Leadership Pill – The Missing Ingredient in Motivating People Today, Ken Blanchard and Marc Muchnick make the point that leadership is the process of getting everyone to the place they are supposed to go. That assumes that you are relationally connected with your people so that you understand where each one is at in their own particular journey in your organization, and where all of you need to go as a group to accomplish the organization’s goals.

Considering the average person spends a third of their life at work, leaders need to remember that one of our highest callings is to nurture and develop those under our care and that we are mutually dependent on each other to get where we need to go, both individually and corporately. Don’t get LOST!

7 thoughts on “Are You LOST as a Leader?

  1. I think a great book could be written about the leadership quotes and themes in LOST. For example, I always enjoyed this interchange between Jack and Locke that was in the pilot episode.

    Jack: I can’t.
    Locke: Why can’t you?
    Jack: Because I’m not a leader.
    Locke: Yet they all treat you like one.

    I think it goes along with the idea of leaders not always realizing how important they are to the people around them.

    P.S. I was just reading this and thinking to myself “Wow, who is writing this? I really like their way of thinking.” Lo and behold, when I scrolled up, it was Randy Conley! Why am I not surprised? 🙂

  2. LOL! Thanks Stacie. Great minds think alike ;). You’re right about the leadership themes in LOST. Another quote that I like from Jack is “Everybody wants me to be a leader until I make a decision they don’t like.” How true is that!?

  3. I appreciate your reminder at the end of your post that leadership is about developing those under your care. I often hear (and read from the news) that people want to be leaders mainly because of the power, influence, and wealth (large bonuses despite layoffs and loss of revenue, esp. if you are in a co. that is ‘too big to fail’).

    However, your article also reminded me of Tony Hsieh in Zappos who does care about the personal fulfillment or happiness of his employees. He implements skills training, coaching, mentoring program in his company for the personal and career advancement of his employees.

    And as discussed in Dianne Crampton’s collaboration team book “TIGERS Among Us: Winning Business Team Cultures And Why They Thrive,” Zappos also has a team culture where decision-making is shared in the lowest ranks of operation to make his business scalable.

    I imagine that many of these employees would adopt Tony Hsieh’s leadership values when they become leaders themselves. And if these employees get hired by other companies, the circle of quality leadership widens in the industry to a certain degree–sort of like the ‘connections of relationships’ in Lost.

    LOST makes us think again about the profound effect of good leadership which goes way beyond the current bottomline.

    • Celina – Thanks for your input! I like your suggestion that the “circle of leadership” can expand as leaders with this philosophy infiltrate the ranks of other companies. Over time we can have a servant-leadership revolution!

  4. I wholeheartedly agree with the notion that effective leadership is at its core relational, and it is refreshing to read someone else articulating that view. Your post got me thinking again about the qualities of a ‘relational leader’ e.g. emotionally and relationally intelligent, reflective, reflexive, authentic, open to the possibility he/she does not know everything etc. The problem is our archetypes for ‘successful leaders’ rarely embody those qualities, and what seem to be valued are strength, speed of thought, intuition, decisiveness, charisma, intellect etc.

    And to become relationally connected to your staff my sense is you need one thing above all else, namely time. The leader who pro-actively builds time in his or her diary for that task may well be a rare beast on the organisational plains of today…..

    Like the site by the way, will add you to my own blog roll.


    • Steve – Thanks for your input. I agree with you that one of the critical success factors in leadership effectiveness is “time.” It reminds me of an old saying that “people don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care”, and you can’t demonstrate that care without taking time to spend with people.

      Best regards,


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