5 lessons on leadership from behind the wheel

April 28th, 2010 · by Tom Stuart · Leadership

Here are 5 leadership lessons from behind the wheel that will not only make you a better driver; but can also make you a better leader in your home, on the job, at church or anywhere else you find yourself responsible for other peoples lives.  I am often looking for leadership illustrations in the things I see around me. 

Many valuable lessons about people and life can be learned through careful observation from behind the wheel of a vehicle. Not everyone would categorize themselves as a leader, but the truth is that everyone who drives a car is a leader when someone else is following them. 

1.  Effective leaders know how to pace themselves.  Speed of the leader, speed of the team.  Everyone hates following a slowpoke, it’s frustrating.  And it’s dangerous dealing with a speed demon who is darting in and out of traffic.  Effective leaders know how to keep things moving in a right way.  They know how to function within the speed limits of their environment.  They are good at merging and adjusting to new situations, conserve energy by using cruise control on the long haul, can accelerate when necessary to get around unnecessary slowing and are always prepared to slow down or stop.

2.  Effective leaders know how to properly manage change.  Good leaders are effective communicators when it comes to change.  They know how to use their turn signals and when to touch their brakes.  They are very conscious to prepare those who follow them for any change they intend to make.  Their intent, as much as possible, is to give clear and ample warning before initiating change to eliminate surprises and to keep from confusing or endangering those who follow them. 

3.  Effective leaders focus intently on where they are going.  Effective leaders not only understand the rules of the road but are attentive to road signs, others on the road, and changing road conditions.  They do not engage in activities that will distract them from their serious responsibility (e.g. texting) nor impair their judgment and ability to make critical decisions. (e.g. drinking/drugs)   They keep a single minded focus on the road ahead and a keen awareness of what is developing around them.  Too many leaders have ruined their lives and the lives of others through character faults and careless living.

4.  Effective leaders monitor their gauges and marshal their resources.  Effective leaders are not only big picture people, but also have an eye for detail.  They know that the maintenance and efficiency of their vehicle is critical in getting them to their destination goal.  They monitor and maintain all critical systems, from fluid levels in the engine to proper air pressure in the tires. They know when to check the rear view mirror and when to make the pit stops necessary to keep things running smoothly.  In other words, effective leaders give care and attention to their people.

5. Effective leaders function best as team players.   Effective leaders aren’t loners.  They know how to take advantage of a co-pilot to make for a safer and smoother journey.  When moving down the road they do not hesitate to depend on the contribution of others for navigation, input and perspective and performing simple tasks.  If have you ever tried to find a dropped coin or put relish on a sandwich while driving at 65 mph you know what I mean.  Good leaders are open to advice and know when to rest and let another drive.

Do you have any leadership lessons you would like to share?  What in your life is training you to be a better leader?

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