Leading in the Fast Lane: A Confession

Categories Leadership


There really isn’t much to see on the 350 mile trip from Anderson, IN to Ashland City, TN, so as my children were asleep in the back and my wife was engaged in a thrilling game of Candy Crush, I became aware of something: I AM A HYPOCRITE!

Now, I imagine that this statement rings true in far more situations than I would like to admit, but today, it was made perfectly clear by the car moving quickly to pass me on the right as I was traveling (over the speed limit, mind you) in the fast lane on Interstate 65. My first reaction was one of annoyance. I was going fast enough that this fellow motorist should have been content to fall in behind me. Once I overcame the desire to speed up to make it difficult for him to merge in front of me, however, I realized that I regularly complain about other vehicles exhibiting my very same behavior. I mean, there really are few things worse than someone poking along in the fast lane while you are being held up by their impudence. And there you have it: I AM A HYPOCRITE!


At this point you may be questioning what this has to do with leadership and rightfully so, but as I reflected on my hypocrisy, I was struck by the fact that leaders are often exactly like those cars in the fast lane. While trying to establish a pace and reach their destination, they often feel either rushed or hampered by those around them.

A rushed leader is someone who feels like he is being pushed by others to make decisions or take action before he is ready. This leader is often an experienced leader who is at the very least annoyed and perhaps even threatened by the new kid on the block. In many cases, he may have every reason in the world to pace himself (like a speed limit) but constantly feels the disapproval of those in his organization who want to move more quickly.

A hampered leader, on the other hand, is the girl who feels cramped by her superiors or by the rules—written or unwritten—that she feels are holding her back from her full potential. This leader is often impatient with the organization and perceives the lack of action as apathy. Even if her ideas are having a positive impact on her peers and her superiors, she is likely regularly looking for another opportunity where she can be a part of something more her speed.


The issue with both of these types of leaders that sometimes makes it difficult is that they can both be right. There are times when a leader must hold the line and be the cautious voice when others are pushing for change. Conversely, there are times when a leader must push against the status quo and call for innovation and movement if the organization is to survive and thrive.

Ultimately, I suppose that is my take-a-way from the long trip home. I want to be aware enough that I notice in myself the tendency to be overly-cautious or to push forward at all costs. It isn’t an all or nothing proposition. It is possible to be a Well-Balanced Leader that finds a way to lead and guide at just the right pace. So as I mature, I don’t want to become the rushed leader who is always threatened by new ideas or progress, but I also want to learn that being told “No” or “Not yet” can be a valuable lesson in delayed gratification. So where are you? Do you need to listen a little more to those pushing you forward or do you need to learn how to be content with where you are? And if you happen to be comfortable in the moment, rest assured, things don’t stay the same very long in the fast lane.

“The mark of a great man is one who knows when to set aside the important things in order to accomplish the vital ones.”

Brandon Sanderson

Brandon is the founder of A Life to Lead. He is also the husband of Beth, father to Ethan and Kate, and the coordinator of the D6 Conference.

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