Leadership is a vital skillset to have. And while there are many pieces of content and literature published on this title alone, to include over 200 of these published pieces that I have read in my lifetime, nothing manages to teach more simply than the principles revealed in the simplicity of daily life. I think there’s a lesson on leadership, or shall I say “influence,” to be learned from such a common scenario.
I hope that at some point in your life, you have driven on the freeway. If so, then you will understand the following real-life scenario.
Some cops monitor traffic by standing on the side of the freeway and pointing a speed radar gun. While I am not personally sure of what the police force is after in this scenario, I am well aware of how it influences traffic. We drive, speeding in many cases. We see the cop on the side of the road with their radar gun pointed. We slow down. When we pass by, we speed up again.
Some cops monitor traffic by driving in the flow of traffic. Again we find ourselves speeding until we are close to the cop, and then we slow down to near the pace of the police officer. As long as we are in proximity of the police car, our speed is managed by the pace of the cop. This pace also affects the vehicles that follow who may not be directly near the police car.
In the first scenario, the cop has presence, although momentary, and their influence has a short-term impact. Those who see the cop behave, but only while passing by the police officer. They resume unhealthy driving habits when outside of the police’s presence. In the second scenario, the cop also has a presence, but with the drivers not apart from the drivers. The cop who paces the traffic must do so by being amongst the other drivers.
Which police presence best describes your leadership style? Do you stand on the sidelines as “the law” while pointing your radar gun, aiming to catch others in the wrong?
Or do you submit yourself to the same flow of traffic? Do you engage the same healthy rhythms of life as those you are called to lead and serve?
It’s easier for us as leaders to stand by, observe, waiting to catch people in the wrong. This approach usually leads to a momentary correction with no genuine depth of transformation. We have become the cop on the side with a speed radar gun.
This approach produces a longer-lasting impact that happens through modeling. This modeling is a public display of submitting to the same principles we expect our followers to embrace. However, much more is required of the leader who regularly engages the lives of those they are called to love and serve. This level of influence reaches their hearts and causes an impact that lasts for miles or years beyond the immediate impact. In this way, we are the cop in the flow of traffic.
Dewayne Hawkins is a Life Coach in Phoenix, Arizona