What Commuting Taught Me About Leadership – Watch Out For People Advancing Their Own Position
-I recently left a position with a great company, but with a long daily commute. This is the third of an 8-week blog series on things about leadership that I learned on those long and tedious hours on the road.
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At one point in my commuting history I was averaging close to one major evasive maneuver per week. “Major” meaning that had I not taken significant action I would have been calling my insurance company—if not the ambulance.
Usually it was someone changing lanes (see my last post: Stay Visible). Often it was somebody “shooting the gap” to cross two lanes of traffic (rarely a good idea). More than once I’ve had pickups or service trucks pull alongside me then without signaling move into the “space” between me and the car in front of me—even though they hadn’t yet cleared my front bumper.
Almost always it was someone trying to get ahead of everyone else. Even though traffic was heavy, they felt compelled to zig-and-zag, forcing themselves ahead, expending a lot of effort to get in front of others.
And Your Point Is…?
I get competitiveness and wanting to win, but is getting ahead of the people you’re driving with really worth the potential damage?
They felt compelled to zig-and-zag, forcing themselves ahead, expending a lot of effort to get in front of others.
The marketplace is competitive (duh). Aggressiveness is often (usually?) seen as a strength; it gets you noticed. In particular, I think of business development roles where being a competitor is a desirable trait. But for most other roles, you should reconsider using competitiveness as your primary MO, because it comes with lots of potential—and usually hidden—damage.
You can damage relationships. When you push people aside to get ahead of them, you make it incredibly hard for them to trust you again. You’ll have to put in much more effort to overcome the perception that you’re really only interested in yourself.
When you push people aside to get ahead of them, you make it incredibly hard for them to trust you again.
You can damage your opportunity to influence. You’re not building into people; it doesn’t build a mutual purpose, accountability, motivation or camaraderie.
Your competitive approach may bring short term results, but it will eventually boomerang. You’re feeding a cutthroat culture where people become expendable and teamwork is transactional, not relational. And when you most need people to respond to your call to action, they simply won’t.
When you most need people to respond to your call to action, they simply won’t.
The Big Picture
When it comes to your leadership behaviors, what goes around comes around. If you honor people and their effort they will respond in kind. If you push them aside in pursuit of your own interests you’ll find yourself very alone.
Your Next Step
How can you be hungry for results but in a way that makes others better (instead of pushes them aside)?
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