Leaders get stuck. All communities have a signature intersection. These intersections are typically located in the heart of that community. They are in Historic Downtowns, on Main Streets, and in Town Centers. Intersections are points of decisions for the driver. Most intersections give you a few options. You can turn left, you can turn right, or you can keep on going through the intersection and stay on the same road.
The vision for Leadership and Main is to help leaders in local communities get off of the Ordinary Road and make the turn onto an Extraordinary Way. Most people are comfortable staying on the same old, ordinary road. It is familiar, comfortable, and minimizes your chances of getting lost.
There is a fourth thing that can happen at an intersection. You can get stuck. You go nowhere. Here are four ways we get stuck as leaders:
Run Out of Gas
Have you ever seen the poor soul that is holding up traffic because they ran out of gas? They had to walk to the gas station to get the necessary fuel to make it through the intersection. As leaders, we all have different things that drain our energy. The drain could be critics, self-imposed burdens, heavy workloads, or toxic people. If you are running on empty, it is difficult to move forward when the light turns green.
Again, intersections are points of decisions for the driver. As humans, we face thousands of little decisions a day. You are the leader and make a lot of important ones. Big and small and everything in between. Decision making can be exhausting.
When we grow tired of making decisions, we become indecisive. We stay stuck at the light, not sure whether to keep going or turn. Instead, we remain stuck. It may even lead to a worse scenario, you drift out into the middle of a busy intersection and freeze! You end up in no man’s land. Tired decisions are never quality decisions.
Most of the time we get stuck at an intersection because we are distracted. Whether you have zoned out, having a conversation with an invisible passenger, or playing on your phone. You are not prepared for the light to change. Usually, you get a friendly honk from the driver behind you that lets you know that you are distracted. For some, it may take some blue lights and a ticket to let you know you are distracted!
As community leaders, we all have a million things going on. Distractions are abundant. Distractions can dominate our world and limit our impact.
Spinning Our Wheels
I am an analyzer by nature. I served with a community leader in the in the Acworth Business Association named Parnick Jennings. He used to say I am a “ready, aim, fire type person.” He declared himself more of a “fire, aim, ready” person. Both personalities can keep us stuck at the intersection.
I like to be planned and prepared. I probably will not spin my wheels, but I can hesitate when the light turns green, therefore I do not go anywhere. My tendency can be to over analyze, over think, and over prepare. Once I get traction, I am good. I just need to give it gas.
On the other hand, when a “fire, aim, ready” person is stopped at an intersection in heavy rain or icy conditions, the light turns green and they smash the gas. They spin their wheels. The motor revs, but there is no forward progress. Just wasted fuel. There was no caution used, no planning for conditions, they just reacted to the green light.
Here is what we can do to avoid these four causes of getting stuck:
Refuel Before You Run Out of Gas
As we discussed in Paw Paw, we need to create space for ourselves. We need vacations, time off, we need breaks. We need to re-fuel. Just like the person that ran out of gas. They likely saw the low fuel warning light the night before and figured they would just deal with it tomorrow. When your low fuel light comes on, act. Do not wait.
“You Decide” Reduces Decision Fatigue
I heard an episode of the Andy Stanley Podcast where he talked about one of the most important things you can respond to your team with is, “you decide.” It may not be applicable to every decision. There will be decisions as the leader that you must make. Sometimes those questions that are posed to you are rhetorical and simply require affirmation, not direction. “You decide” empowers the team member and can reduce your fatigue.
Staying focused on moving forward is important. In order to do so, we must limit distractions. In fact, I had to practice this tonight. I was at the dinner table, writing this blog. Grant was watching the Atlanta Braves game in the living room (so was I), Shannon was doing some things in the kitchen, Ashtyn just got back from Michaels and was showing me her new tie-dye kit and giving me her business plan for her new t-shirt business, and my phone was pinging from a group text. All good things, but I was distracted and making no progress on the post. I went upstairs, found a quiet space, and now you are reading a completed post. I got unstuck by limiting distractions.
Getting Traction Helps Tires from Spinning
For me, it helps to focus on progress over perfection. For most of last year, I tried to make this blog perfect. Someone had told me that I needed forty blog posts complete before it launched. That was overwhelming and caused me to get stuck. A good buddy of mine, Andrew Windham, unpacked this concept of “progress over perfection” on his Educated Freedom Podcasts. This resonates with me and helps me get going when the light turns green. I need to be eighty percent prepared and adjust to the final twenty percent.
For you “fire, aim, ready” people. In defensive driving classes they teach to still look both ways when the light turns green to make sure cross traffic is in fact going to stop. A quick evaluation of the intersection to come is worthwhile. It can avoid a collision. Once you know it is safe, apply gentle pressure to the pedal and insure you have good traction.
As a community leader who uses their influence to better others and the world you live in, you cannot afford to get stuck. When you get stuck, you cannot better others. You cannot better the world you live in. But, it is okay, all leaders get stuck.
If your energy levels are low, you are distracted, or you are spinning your wheels, you are not going anywhere. Neither are the others along for the journey with you. The success of the student, player, employee, or member should inspire you to move forward. The responsibility you have to your school, team, local government, business, church, or non-profit is to lead well. Do not get stuck at the intersection of ordinary and extraordinary. Make the turn towards an Extraordinary Way. Every time.
Ordinary to Extraordinary Intersection
Are you creating space for yourself to refuel? What refuels you? What drains you? Are you suffering from decision fatigue? Are you empowering your team? If your tires are spinning, is it because you are hesitant to go or because you have a lead foot?