If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader. – John Quincy Adams
I teach about leadership in my day job. It can be a very rewarding experience. I think that sometimes we think of leadership in too narrow a framework. It is what those in power or authority do. Yet, real leadership, the type that inspires, can be practiced by anyone.
As if to make this point, my wife, Sherry, showed our children the courage and commitment of leadership. The story begins with Sherry and four children driving on one of the state highways in our area. The speed limit on that stretch of road is 50MPH. In her rear view mirror, my wife watched as a car approached her minivan at high speed. The driver seemed to be in a great hurry. So much so that she was driving very close to the rear bumper of my Sherry’s minivan.
Sherry became concerned over the safety of the situation so she increased her speed to 60 mph. The person following increased her speed as well so that her car was again extremely close to the rear bumper of my wife’s car. Sherry became anxious for the safety of not only herself and the kids but the driver of the other car.
After a few more tense moments, my wife decided to slow down. At least if the other car was going slower, she thought, the potential for an accident would be less. Not long after Sherry slowed down, the driver of the car behind her passed and went on her way.
My wife was troubled by this situation. As she considered what to do, she had the premonition on where the driver of this car was. She felt she could find her at a near by Wendy’s (how she is able to have hightened intuition will be a topic of future Blog). So she decided to drive to Wendy’s and see if the driver was there. Sure enough as she pulled into the Wendy’s parking lot, the car that had created such potential havoc was parked there. My wife parked her minivan and told the kids she was going to talk to this driver.
Now she didn’t take this lightly. Her insides were rumbling and her legs were shaking. As she was preparing to leave the car, the older boys (10 and 13) were curious about what she would do. In fact, the older one wanted to follow her into Wendy’s to see what would happen. Sherry didn’t think this was such a good idea.
So in she went. There was the driver of the tail gating car filling a container of catsup after receiving her order. Sherry walked over to this young woman and asked her is she realized the danger she had created with her reckless driving. She emphasized that the car she so closely tail gated was filled with four children and that her behavior was simply unacceptable.
I believe this young woman probably was in shock at being so clearly called to accountability for her actions. She had no response to my wife’s entreaty.
How many times are each of us faced with situations where we know we are called to do something courageous to bring attention to something that just isn’t right. Perhaps we are afraid of what the other person will think of us. Perhaps we are afraid of some sort of attack. Whatever our reason, we let the situation slide and never know if someone else may be at the effect of the same situation we experienced.
This simple and courageous act had an impact on the children. They could witness fist hand someone they respect “doing the right thing.”
What about you. Do you have an instance like Sherry’s you would like to share? Do you feel that as a parent you are a leader? Do you act when you know you should?