Thursday, August 15, 2013

Accelerator or Brake?

I once heard leadership analogized with the act of driving a car. As drivers we make thousands of decisions (most rather unconsciously) about when to press the accelerator and when to press the brake.  In fact, there are thousands (if not millions) of shades of gray between those two acts. 

Knowing how much accelerator or how much brake to apply, and more importantly, when to apply them, is a skill that is learned over time.  Yet each new day as drivers provides us opportunities and challenges that are similar, yet not quite the same, as the ones we have faced before. 

In leadership (just as in driving), we are compelled to speed up and slow down on a continual basis (personally, in our relationships, and with respect to the organization).  And, what evidence do we use to make those decisions to speed up or slow down?  It is the stimuli (the data, the feedback, the results) we encounter.  In driving a car, those stimuli are things such as environmental conditions, the regulatory environment, safety considerations, levels of risk, defensive considerations, desired time of arrival, etc. Very similar kinds of stimuli exist for us in the leadership realm. The underlying assumption is that we are actually paying attention to the stimuli. 

Yet, in leadership (just as in driving) the objective is always the same - to get us (and those in the vehicle/organization with us) to a desired location, safely, within an optimal window of time.  

Districted driving is a huge problem.  Distracted leadership is a bigger one.  Are we pressing the accelerator or tapping the brake? Which one? With how much pressure? How long? (and most importantly) Why?  Sounds like leadership to me.

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