A Leadership Lesson I Learned While Driving


One of the fun parts of living in New Orleans is the driving.  It is an adventure.  You never know what obstacles you may need to avoid or overcome.  Other drivers, potholes or a parade could all be on the agenda.

I live just 5 miles from the heart of the city.  It is possible to get there in 15 minutes if (and this is a big if) there is no traffic, construction, a train (or two) or a boat (coming through the canal).  If any of these issues present themselves, it could take 45 minutes to get anywhere.

Having lived here for several years now, I have learned how to get around most problems.  If the bridge goes up, you can cut through the neighborhood to another bridge.  If a train comes, you quickly turn into this neighborhood or that one and you can get around it and get ahead of the traffic.

Over the holidays, I was driving into the city for Celebration in the Oaks, a Christmas lights spectacle at City Park.  A friend of ours was carpooling with us and had asked me to lead.  On the way, a light turned yellow right as I was coming up on it.  I had to go through it but my friend missed it.  So I pulled over and waited for the light to turn green, basic 101 carpooling etiquette, right?

A few minutes later I saw that a train was crossing up ahead and only a few cars were parked in front of it.  This means, that the wait was going to be significant.  As we made our approached I considered my typical plan of action…turn left, cut through the neighborhood and zoom around the train before it gets to the next street.  If I am too late, go two more blocks (one way streets) to the next crossing.  Then come back up to the main street and continue on my way.

I always do this when a train crosses in this part of town.  As I started to make the turn a few factors played in my mind.

  1. The train is moving pretty fast.  We might have to go all the way to the river to pass through.
  2. My friend may not be comfortable cutting through neighborhoods.
  3. It is cold, rainy and dark.
  4. My friend has a small car and may not be up for tackling the potholes.

Based on this I decided to pull up a chair, so to speak, and let the train pass.  We lost time, but we arrived safely and without any need for car repairs.  Besides, running late in NOLA is not a problem.

As I was sitting in front of the train, it occurred to me that leadership is a lot like this.  Whether it be leading at your job, with your family or in a particular situation like this one, there are some principles you must remember.  When you are leading…

  1. You must first consider your followers.
  2. You cannot do whatever you want.
  3. Safety takes priority over progress.
  4. Being fast is less important than getting to the destination.
  5. Personal goals take a backseat to group goals.
  6. Just because you can, does not mean you should.

At some point we all have an opportunity to lead.  It may be for a moment or for a season of life.  At work, if you are the boss, you must consider these principles when leading your employees.  Learn about each of them so you can best determine whether they can handle “cutting through a neighborhood.”

If you are a parent, you need to consider how you lead your children.  It is difficult, but sometimes you have to put your goals on hold for the good of your family.  When it comes to leading your children spiritually, you may need to start or stop doing things that previously you did or did not do.  As a spiritual leader for your children, just because you can do (or not do) something, does not mean you should.

At home, at work or in life, you will have opportunities to lead.  Consider those you are leading when you make a decision to go in a certain direction.  May you make the right decisions.

Which of these key points have been difficult for you in your leadership?  Share in the comments section.

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