“Forty miles-per-hour? The speed limit is fifty…are you serious?” Of course, this was only the first of a flurry of comments that spewed from my mouth as I drove near the bumper of the “Ya-hoot” (as I kindly referred to him) in front of me. I was on my way to a speaking engagement and this guy was obviously on his way nowhere. And, as perfectly spaced on-coming cars kept me from passing, I found myself stuck, following him nowhere for what seemed like an eternity -- until finally, his left blinker flashed. “Yes!” I shouted, with freedom in sight. Then ... it happened; he decided to play it safe and wait until the lone car, still a quarter mile away and practically crawling toward us, had passed. It was all I could take. On the brink of a melt down I gunned it, swerved right, and flew past him leaving only inches between the two vehicles, while both tires spun through the yard on the right. As I passed the car, still mumbling under my breath, my wife flashed a look of astonished disgust at me -- then shared a few well-deserved words of reprimand regarding my behavior.
Within minutes I was calmly driving the speed limit again reflecting upon what had just happened -- and the irony in it. I was on my way to speak on the topic of leadership. And, interestingly enough, a central part of the message was to be on the importance of learning to be selfless with our choices in consideration of our influence. In other words, I was about to encourage a group of business leaders to not only consider the desired effect of their actions, but also to consider the inadvertent effects of their actions on those they influence. I like to refer to this as the choice within the choice.
The choice within the choice works like this. We want something so we choose to act upon our desire. In this case, I was in a hurry to get to the event so, frustrated, I chose to speak harshly and make a dangerous driving maneuver. The choice within the choice considers the effects our first choice could have on those we influence, and chooses to selflessly adjust the action accordingly. Unfortunately, I never took the time to consider the influence my choice comments or reckless driving might have on my wife or my children as they watched the whole episode play out. Instead of considering my influence and selflessly choosing to exercise restraint, I chose selfishly – and in doing so, I failed to practice what I was about to preach.
The bottom line is this -- as leaders desiring to get things done, we’re constantly faced with the choice within the choice. We choose to engage in conversation, and then choose words that are either genuine and constructive or harsh and sarcastic. We choose to engage in a meeting, and then choose to be either optimistic and encouraging or cynical and discouraging. Whatever the choice, there’s almost always an element of influence we should be considering within that choice. My challenge to you as leaders aspiring to LEAD…for God’s Sake – make your choices based not only upon what you want to accomplish today – but on the impact you will invariably have along the way!