Building and Burning Bridges

Want to be a leader who thrives in the present?

Build bridges.

Want to be a leader who shapes the future?

Burn them.

It’s both.

Leaders accelerate beginnings and endings.

They create and destroy.

I know, that’s a harsh-sounding word, “destroy”.

It’s more pleasant to think about the creating.

But beginnings usually require endings.

Building Bridges

Between people and potential.

Between conflict and resolution.

Between problems and solutions.

Between vision and action.

Between passion and purpose.

Between skills and challenges.

Between ideas and implementation.

Between expectations and behaviors.

Between silos.

Leaders do a lot of this kind of building. Facilitating the connection between distant shores. Bringing the point of need to the point of fulfillment. Removing barriers to progress.

The building process is usually more enjoyable and where you’ll get the most positive recognition.

Wherever you are in the organization, in any team, there are opportunities to see the gap and make a connection. This is one of the most appreciated skills a leader can develop and the more people who participate in this leadership activity, the stronger and more capable the organization.

Every bridge is unique and some bridges will take a lot of time and effort. It takes practice to master the art of bridge building and it begins with the process of seeing the gap and taking action.

Burning Bridges

Between the easy way and the hard way.

Between excuses and action.

Between the old behaviors and new behaviors.

Between the safe path and the risky path.

Between denial and reality.

Between analyzing and deciding.

Between failures and failing.

Between past success and future potential.

Between the way it was and the way it is.

Over time, organizations become very comfortable with the bridges they’ve built and the well-worn paths they provide, even if they no longer serve a useful purpose. The prospect of building a new bridge might be daunting and the outcome uncertain.

Burning can be harder than building and it often needs to be done simultaneously. It takes a courageous and skillful leader to remove these bridges without losing forward momentum. This process is usually not as well recognized nor appreciated but it is just as critical to the health of the organization.

This is where leadership is really put to the test.

Sometimes you can remove the old bridge piece by piece with lots of advance notice. And then there are times where the only option is to light the dynamite and leave one path forward.

The Cycle of Leadership

Growth is a cycle of endings and beginnings. It’s hard to let go and hard to lead others through the process of letting go. But it may be necessary to do some burning if you want to fully realize the benefit of the bridges you hope to build.


  1. Scott, wow—what a powerful concept! Building bridges and burning bridges. I am learning so much from you as a leader. Your thoughts are deep. Thank you for sharing your insights.


  2. Thank you, Dee. I am glad you found the post helpful. The best leaders are learners. 🙂


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