Four Decisions Leaders Need to Make (A Lesson From The Streets)

I usually hate waiting at traffic lights. But this time was different.

I’m quite impatient when I think about it. I’m someone that fills up $20-$30 at a time at the fuel station because that’s about the length of time I can stand still.

But this time, as I stood waiting for the lights to change, I looked down and this street sticker captured my attention and my imagination. 

These simple words made me think. In fact I was lost in my thoughts so much that I missed the green light. 

As I read these four words, I couldn’t help but think that this message had a broader application than just road safety awareness. 

As a leader, they are four intentional decisions that leaders need to make regularly:

1. Stop

Leaders are a driven bunch. We do whatever it takes to get the job done and we keep things moving forward. Sometimes that internal drive makes it challenging to slow down, let alone stop. Corporate advancement should never come at the expense of personal wellbeing. Well-doing must be balanced with well-being. We all need a regular space to stop and breathe. 

Question: When was the last time you took some time to stop and switch off? 

2. Look 

Sometimes the answer to our biggest challenges are staring right at us, we just need a little perspective. If you find yourself getting caught up looking at the shape of the leaf maybe it’s time to take a step back and see the shape of the whole tree. Leaders need to make an intentional decision to step up out of the dust to view situations from a higher perspective.

Question: When was the last time you were able to look at a problem strategically not just operationally? 

3. Listen 

The right voices play a crucial role in helping leaders make the right choices. It might look like the voice of a coach, mentor, colleague or friend. Who are you listening to? Who has your ear? Who will tell you what you need to hear not just what you want to hear? 

Question: When was the last time you had a conversation that fuelled or challenged you? 

4. Think

Don’t just take the path of least resistance. Psychologists tell us that our brain processes information through making associations and building pathways. Over time these pathways become well worn. One word can act like a slippery slide to a series of thoughts. This is great because it helps us to do things seemingly without thinking. It’s dangerous because it helps us do things without thinking. Taking time to think is not time wasted for a leader, it’s critical to their success. Sometimes a great way to form new pathways is to put yourself in an environment where others challenge your thinking.

Question: When was the last time you put yourself in an environment that made you think differently? 

Who would have thought that taking time to wait at a set of lights could turn into some great leadership insights. It made me wonder what other lessons I might have missed along the way because I struggled to wait?