Unexpected Leadership Lessons

“Life presents us a multitude of lessons…we can choose to spend our time lamenting our current situation and miss the learning…or we can choose to reflect, grow, and stretch ourselves.  And come out the other side the better for it.”

Monumental, eventful days that change us don’t usually begin that way…very often it is quite the opposite.  They begin just like any other day.  They catch us by surprise.

Yesterday, in a small way, was one of those days…

Like any other morning, autopilot and routines got the day rolling.  Lunches packed.  Homework checked.  In the car and off to school and work.  A short drive filled with small talk and well-wishes on the day to come.  Discussions that drifted into quiet reflections.  Pondering.  A red light.  Waiting our turn…

Quiet reflections abruptly wiped away.  A screech.  An impact.  Rear-ended.  The daily routine quickly dismissed.  Facing a very different morning.  What began as just another drive to school had suddenly turned into something quite different, and unexpected.   Actually, very unexpected…the impact, the accident, arrived with little to no warning.

Fortunately, no one was seriously injured.  Nerves frazzled.  A little stunned.  Yet, everyone was able to walk away.

Back to impact.  First.  My son.  Hurt?  Injured?  Scared?  Quick confirmation.  “I’m okay, Dad.”  Next.  The other driver?  The accident?  The vehicles?   Check.  Now the process.  Names. Numbers.  Insurance.  Calls to be made.  Claim forms to be filled out.  On and on.  And a son that still needed to get to school…

Unfortunately, the world doesn’t pause when unfortunate events grace our doorstep.  It keeps chugging along.  Tenacious.  Ticking.  Pulling us back into the routine.  School and work still called.  Onward.  Feeling fortunate.  Thankful.  The physical checked off.  The emotional?  Appeared positive.  Acceptable.  All seemed well.  “I love you, have a great day at school.”

Yet, what our exteriors seldom show is the depth, the impressions that life’s events can have on us.  And while his words, his expression, his exterior gave the “all is well” signs…the impact left an impression.  Not physical.  Emotional.  A different kind of impression.

An imprint of the impact wasn’t fully realized till the end of the day.  Reliving the moment with Mom.  Unloading the impression.  Deflating the imprint.  Raw.  Open.  Reflective.

Which, upon reflection, provides a strong leadership lesson to heed…

Very often, leaders blind side those they lead.  Hitting them with unexpected changes.  Initiatives.  Plans.  New directions.  Leaving them reeling.  Grasping.  No context.  No frontloading.  No mental model to wrap their head around. Just impact.  Unexpected.  Jarring.  Abrupt.

Leaders must be aware that their actions, their words, their impact, their leadership leaves an impression, an imprint.  Either positive or negative.  An imprint just the same.  And when leaders refuse to acknowledge that, to reflect…their leadership is very much like the car crash.  Abrupt.  Unexpected.  Unwelcomed.

Strong, authentic leaders understand that impact…on those they lead, on their organization.  Reflective.  Monitoring that impact.  Influence.  Relationships.  Filling that impact, that impression.  Empathy.  Compassion.  Accountable.

Less crashing.  More coaching.

Ultimately, we will determine the impact, the impression, the imprint we will leave.

A lesson worth heeding…

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