It is easy for leaders to get Stuck at intersections.
For drivers, intersections serve as points of decisions in our travels. Most intersections provide us with several options in the decision-making process. We can decide to turn left, turn right, or continue down the same road. The one option we cannot afford, is to get stuck at the intersection.
For leaders, our journeys are a series of critical intersections that continually present themselves. The intersections in leadership are disguised as decisions. Decisions generated out of crisis and necessity. Like driving down a highly traveled road, there are intersections that you breeze right though, some that slow you down, and those you get stuck at.
When I get stuck in my leadership journey, I tend to feel like I am stuck at a busy intersection waiting on the light to turn green. Things are moving fast around me, but I am going nowhere.
What causes us to get stuck at intersections of leadership? Here are three ways we get stuck at intersections, and how to get back on the road:
Paralysis by Analysis
Our worlds are full of intersections that require decisions, thousands of them. Big or small, the people we lead look to us to make those decisions. It’s what we do as leaders.
For me, I like to make calculated decisions and get it right the first time. This can require time and processing, which we don’t always have. I can easily become paralyzed through the process of overthinking and overanalyzing. It can often leave me stuck at the intersection when the light turns green. Maybe you can relate?
Something I had to learn was to focus on progress over perfection. I need to be eighty percent prepared on my decision and adjust on the fly to the other twenty percent. My world does not stand by and wait for me to craft the perfect decision. When I’m stuck and standing still, I focus on forward progress. It accelerates my decision making and gets the team on the road to our destination.
Now, for those of you on the other side of the paralysis problem. I was always taught in defensive driving that even if the light turns green, check to make sure that the cross traffic is actually going to stop before I go. It has saved me from some serious collisions.
While a lead foot can get you started quickly at an intersection, it can also get you stuck. The counter to paralysis is impulsivity. Impulsive decisions can lead to collisions that leave damage, destruction, and dysfunction in its path.
As a calculated person, I can easily envy those who are decisive. Quick, decisive decisions have their place. They can lead in one of two directions, getting it right or getting it wrong. There is not much of an in-between. It’s always good to look both ways before stomping on the gas.
Running Out of Gas
Have you ever seen the poor soul that is holding up traffic because they ran out of gas? They lacked the necessary fuel to make it through the intersection.
As leaders, we all have different things that drain our energy. The drain could be piles of decisions, 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.
Leaders need to create time and space for ourselves. We need vacations, time off, and breaks. Re-fueling is necessary. The person that ran out of gas likely saw the low fuel light the day before and figured they would just deal with it tomorrow. When your low fuel light comes on, act. Do not wait. Fill your tank.
As we approach the next intersection in our journeys, let’s do a better job of recognizing the reasons we get stuck. Leadership is all about forward progress. President Franklin D. Roosevelt once said, “There are many ways of going forward, but only one way of standing still.” Leaders who get stuck, stall the progress of not only themselves, but also the people and the organization they lead. It has a direct correlation.
Be prepared when the light turns green, don’t get stuck at intersections. When great leaders go, the people go with them. People can’t follow us if we are sitting still. Get moving.