Do you ever feel like life is moving too fast? With the end of summer fast approaching and the oncoming of fall, it’s easy to feel like you’re in ‘squirrel mode’. Time to hurry up and start packing things away and getting organized for you know what. But faster isn’t always the answer.
There are actually three options. To begin thinking about them, imagine a highway.
The Fast Lane You already know what this one is for. It’s the one you get in when it’s time to cover some ground. For some it’s not fast enough, and they feel the need to go faster. The posted speed limit is just too slow. Without getting into character issues, there are some who can travel in this lane with skill without jeopardizing their own life or the lives of others.
The Slow Lane This lane if for those who are not in much of a hurry. You reach your destination in this lane, it just takes a little longer. In fact, in some cases this lane allows you to take more in on your journey. People in this lane are often referred to as ‘Sunday drivers’ in upstate N.Y. where I live.
The Middle Lane This lane isn’t just for those who are looking to go a little slower than drivers in the fast lane or a little faster than drivers in the slow lane. This lane also allows you to navigate between the fast and slow lanes.
I’ve used this simple illustration to point out a few truths about leadership and winning. Top leaders realize that none of these lanes are any better than the other. In fact, they all have equal value. What sets strong leaders apart from the pack is that they realize when it is time to accelerate and when it is time to let up on the pedal. They’re not afraid to use every lane when necessary.
Some are not so fortunate. They learn the hard way about the value of discernment.
The problem is there isn’t always a highway to take your team from point A to point B. It’s often more like a side road with twists and turns. A great leader knows this and understands when it’s time to slow down and when it’s time to speed up.
Yes, some of you can negotiate S and hairpin turns faster than others, but in general, you’ll do well to take the time to slow down. In the long run, you and your team will be all the better for it.
I was once in Mustang 5.0 with a friend and his brother heading into a sharp turn doing about 130 miles per hour! My friend and I begged his brother to slow down, but he wouldn’t. We both knew the turn couldn’t be made at the speed we were traveling, yet his brother was out of his mind. Miraculously, the car remained upright when it spun in circles as we flew off the road and came to a rest.
Sometimes as a leader, you can make the mistake of trying to impress others by how fast you drive. They won’t be so impressed if you crash and burn and injure everyone on the bus with you.
Not only do good leaders possess competency, they also possess character. Your character is just as important as your competency. You can lose your competency and get it back. Neglect your character and you’ll never live it down. Why not slow down? Be the leader God designed you to be. You’re not going to impress him or anyone else by constantly acting outside of your giftedness and integrity.
Psalm 78 says of King David, “So he fed them (Israel) according to the integrity of his heart; and guided them by the skilfulness of his hands”. The world of leadership moves fast and it requires both character and competency. If you have to forfeit either character or competency, you’re not being the leader God made you to be. You don’t have to cut moral corners or burn yourself and others out to make a difference in this world.
Again, no lane is better than any other. Each one serves a purpose for a time. What is important is knowing which lane to use at any given time. So how do you know?
You know you’re in the wrong lane when you lack character. Loss of character doesn’t just occur in the fast lane. It can also occur in the slow lane. For example, you know it’s time to shift into a faster lane but it’s not convenient.
You also know you’re in the wrong lane if competency is an issue. In some cases you may not be using your full competency and God is telling you it’s time to change lanes. Or you may be trying to appear more competent than you are and God wants you to slow down and get the skills you need.
Before you go off into the mud, why not take a few minutes to reflect? What lane are you in right now? Is this the right lane for you and your family?
Again, some leaders have more character and competency and they can travel fast, but that doesn’t mean you can. When was the last time you let your heart catch up with your mind?
In the rush to reach your dreams and goals, it’s so easy to put the pedal to the metal and hope for the best. However, you need to use sound judgment. Every move you make, the people you lead are watching. More importantly, God is watching.
If you’ll start thinking of leadership as three lanes instead of just one- the fast lane- you’ll be on the road to achieving more than you could ever imagine. In no time at all, you’ll even pass the wrecks of those who thought they needed to get there faster. While nobody wants that, it’s a sobering truth. Leadership from the heart requires both competency and character. The choice is yours.