Recently I was in a car accident which resulted in my car being completely totaled. The blessing from this accident was that I and the other driver were completely free from any physical injuries. What caused the accident? It was me…I was completely at fault. Although physically present, being tired and stressed, my mind was elsewhere.
One evening while driving home from work, I completely spaced out and ran a red light. I notice a green left turn arrow and moving cars, regrettably, I failed to notice that the street light was red for the main traffic. I wasn’t aware that I was running a red light until I was in the intersection and saw a young lady make a legal left turn. I immediately turned my car to the right to avoid a head-on collision, however, unable to stop in enough time, she struck both driver and passenger doors of my vehicle.
As I shared my story with others, many agreed that they have ran a red light simply because their minds were preoccupied with the challenges of life (i.e., work, family, outstanding responsibilities, fatigue, etc). Some have also stated that because they often have a routine route to and from work, they are often unaware of the details that may have occurred while driving to their destination. This scenario got me to thinking about organizational leadership. Specifically, how many organizational leaders engage in the same leadership style and behaviors regardless of the various situational factors or challenges they encounter? Are you a mindless leader who engages in the same leadership style without considering the situation or your potential impact on others? Are you always autocratic, delegative, facilitative, or consultative? Do you consider yourself to be consistently transformational, transactional, ethical, or authentic?
As I am passionate about improving my personal development, I reflected upon my leadership skills and the lessons learn during my interactions with the police officers who assisted us with the accident, the driver of the other car, and my car insurance company. To begin, I was more concerned about the other driver than my own well-being. On more than one occasion, I asked the other driver, a young 25-year old woman, if she was ok?…in any pain?..in need of any medical assistance? I remember being on the phone with my car insurance company the next day and crying because I was extremely worried about the physical well-being of the other driver. I wasn’t concerned about myself…I honestly felt horrible for putting her life at risk and was praying that her physical well-being would not be adversely affected for the days to follow. Lesson #1: Are you more concerned for yourself or the employees and stakeholders who support your organization?
Next, dishonesty wasn’t an option or consideration. When the police officers asked me what happened, it was important for me to take full responsibility for my actions….regardless of the consequences. Therefore, I gave an honest response. I recounted my actions while driving and what I saw…more importantly that I spaced out and didn’t see the red main traffic light. Lesson #2: When encountering challenging situations, are you a person of integrity? Will your followers view you as someone who is ethical or authentic?
Last, this experience was an eye opener that I must do a better job of “being present”. In today’s society, it is very easy to become consumed with what happened during the day or week, and what needs to happen tomorrow. We utilize so much of our time thinking about our interactions with others, planning for outstanding responsibilities, work, family, friends, etc to the detriment of paying full attention to what is occurring around us. Since this accident, I decided to find creative ways to remain engage in my current environment, to RELAX more, get plenty of rest, have more FUN (it is sad to say that almost forgot what that word meant), and more importantly….STRESS less. Accordingly, I have spent more time doing just that. I have traveled, seized opportunities to pamper myself, as well as, danced and laughed more than I have in the past 10 years. Talk about finding balance and being replenished! Lesson #3: As a leader, how do you step up to the challenge with finding new ways to resolve problems? Are you innovative/creative? Or, do you have supportive people in your immediate circle who are innovative/creative?
As you can see, stepping up to the challenge to be accountable, authentic, ethical, and innovative is not only applicable to our professional lives….we have the opportunity to demonstrate these behaviors in our personal lives as well. Being a strong leader should resonate within and through us regardless of our surroundings and the challenges we encounter.
Erica L. Anthony, Ph.D., is the CEO/Founder of Lyceum for Innovative Leadership LLC, a full service coaching, training, and consulting business seeking to assist high potential professionals with achieving their personal and professional goals. For additional information regarding Lyceum for Innovative Leadership LLC and the services offered, please visit www.innovative-leader.com.