Leadership Traffic Jam

I love finding leadership moments in the simple things. This morning on my way to the office, I came upon a familiar place but not a familiar scene.

I drive by a school intersection every day. Normally there is a police officer present to direct drivers due to the heavy amount of traffic. This morning there was no police officer directing traffic. Hence, we were all winging it. Some drivers politely waved others through. Others barely tapped the brakes before gunning it, regardless of whether it was their turn to go. The result was a traffic jam (pictured above). Cars were backed up in every direction even though there were no more commuters this morning than there are on any other morning!

The only difference this particular morning was that we had no leader providing us with direction. We had no one leading us to make sure we were moving in the direction we were supposed to go. Instead of getting angry, I had to grin, grab my phone, and take a picture. I immediately knew that I wanted to share this leadership experience. Here are three lessons this situation illustrates:

Giving direction during tough times

In my last post on leading to the conditions, I discussed giving direction as an important leadership element during tough times. This traffic jam represented tough times, and we needed and wanted someone to direct us. The lack of direction was frustrating, and many drivers started making their own driving rules. The result of everyone doing his or her own thing made the commute to our destination worse.

Yes, I’m a leader…. but I’m also a follower

Every leader needs to be a great follower. While I love leading the way, I don’t mind following when someone else is capable, focused, and has the vision. I never question following the directions that the traffic officers gives us. In fact, if I can rely on him to lead, then I can focus on doing other things. This is no different in business. If, as a leader, I can follow other teammates when they are leading a meeting, a project,or a department, I then have opportunity to think more creatively or use my time and mental capacity on another project. Following is a skill set, and every leader should be willing to follow.

Appreciate good leadership

I must confess, all these mornings I have taken our traffic officer for granted. Every morning he has directed all of us so efficiently, and we just followed along never thinking anything great of his work. Well, this morning I felt differently. I missed him, needed him, and now totally appreciate him. Why did it take the traffic officer being gone for me to appreciate his work? Shame on me!

I love looking for leadership. There is a leadership lesson, good or bad, happening all the time. Find the fun in discovering them, reflecting on them, and using them as teaching moments with your team.

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  • Cashlie says:

    Ok….so this isn’t a traffic jam, but I definitely found a leadership lesson in it.

    This quote from coach Geno Auriemma, UConn’s women head basketball coach, struck a chord with me today. In this article, http://msn.foxsports.com/wcbk/story/Connecticut-women-break-historic-mark-with-89th-straight-win-122110?GT1=39002 , regarding their latest AMAZING win, the BIG 89. (A national record for college basketball which was held by UCLA for over 40 years until last night. )

    He said,
    ”I don’t want my team to compare themselves to anyone. I’m not John Wooden and this isn’t UCLA. This is Connecticut and that’s good enough.”

    How profound I thought. He’s not asking his team to go out there and beat UCLA’s old record or compare themselves to anyone. He’s asking them to compare their team to THEIR TEAM, nothing else. Not passed records, not future records, not passed teams. He asked them to compare themselves to what “They” were capable of, nothing else.

    I think its so easy to start comparing your team and yourself as a leader to other teams and leaders or past teams you’ve been on. While it’s important to take the lessons you learned from those experiences, its even more important to create your own leadership style based on what your capable of and develop your team based on what they’re capable of.

    I just thought that quote was a great reminder of that.

  • Jennifer montalvo says:

    I miss you Linda! Reflecting is wonderful and sharing with the team is so powerful! It of course shares the lesson but it also shares a part of you. Great leaders have great stories/lessons to share…. But the best leaders help you to make your stories/lessons better! Thank you Linda for doing just that!!

  • Rebecca says:

    Great post Linda. It is true, leaders are “tested” in many things both inside and outside the workplace. I would love to read one of your post on when a leader makes a bad decision. After all, no one is perfect, not even the best leaders. So what happens to leaders when they make a bad judgement call?

    Keep up the awesome work!

    • Linda Sasser says:

      Thanks for your question Rebecca. I love answering hot topics that are on the minds of people. Of course my philosophy on answering questions are just that… my philosophy. But hopefully it will challenge and inspire others to think topics through in their own way.

      After all our philosophies are a unique culmination of those we’ve come in contact with. Put them all together, stir them up and there we are. 🙂 This would also be a fun topic to dig into.

      I like your question and will address it! Thanks.

  • Tiffany Peterson says:

    This is awesome!!

  • Gayle Longmore says:

    Great! Thanks for sharing.

  • Karen Heine says:

    I love this!