Leadership Where You Are: The Stoplight
Have you ever driven through a yellow stoplight, and the light changed to red just after you went through, or even just before you made it through? Did you say to yourself, wow, I probably could have even stopped safely at the light. Have you ever looked into the rearview mirror and realized that someone came through after you did!? And if you could have stopped, what does that say about their safe driving habits? Is there now a slight bit of concern that your car and its passengers are not safe in front of this driver? I know my level of concern goes up. Some yellow lights last a little longer than others. This means the safety margin varies.
The purpose of the yellow light is not to communicate the light will soon turn red, right? Go faster!
Let’s review the traffic signal colors. Green light means it is safe to cross (or at least it means proceed if the road is clear). Yellow light means caution; proceed if you cannot stop safely. Red means stop.
If your light is green, then the cross light must be red. And if someone crosses through the intersection, on your green, and you insist on your right of way without an appropriate level of awareness, then there is a good chance of an accident. While you may be right, you also may be injured. Which is more important, your green light or your safety? I hope you ranked safety over your right-of-way. If not, please ask me to never ride in your vehicle. That will be for my safety.
There are no stoplights for leadership. While you may insist on your way being the correct way, if you don’t bring the right level of awareness and communication to your team, your leadership may be injured. The level of leadership in use, without the right level of awareness and communication to your team, is only positional (just like your spot in the intersection). If you raise your level of leadership with awareness and communication, then you reach the second level of leadership—permission. It is at this level that the leader recognizes that leadership is about the people, not the leader. It moves from the “me” leader to the “we” leader. This is just like driving. If you care for the people in your car, then you want to make sure they make it through the intersection and to their destination.
Leadership is about making the right choice no matter where you are. Even at the stoplight.
Lead where you are!