Driving is on my mind this week, because my third-born is behind the wheel of a driver’s ed car. Within a few weeks, State Farm will once again have all of my money, and when the Day Of The License finally arrives next spring, I will repeat my time-honored tradition of staring out the front door, counting the seconds until Jase returns from the grocery store (parent pro tip: your kids are never any happier to do something for you than in the few weeks after they get their license. Need a packet of ranch dressing? A tomato? A single Tic-Tac? They’ll happily get it for you).
Drivers ed is amazing, because even though the student is driving, he’s not really driving. Every student has a passenger-side teacher with his own set of controls…brake pedal, steering wheel…to keep a fifteen year old kid from panicking over a bee and driving into a ditch. And those controls are great when you are a teacher and you don’t want to go into a ditch. But not so great once the student is licensed and legal.
What hath this to do with anything? Only this: I’ve been thinking through dual steering wheels and leadership. And I’ve been convicted of the number of times that – as a leader – I’m too quick to install my own passenger side steering wheel / brake pedal combo and take over for who should be driving.
In regards to meetings, Bill Hybels says it like this in Leadership Axioms:
Near the top of almost every meeting I attend, I ask the question, “Who’s driving?” I don’t ask for my benefit alone; in full view of the other participants, I want to get someone on the hook for running a successful meeting. I want someone to declare that he or she is, in fact, in charge of the meeting…In the early days of Willow, the question “Who’s driving?” rarely had to be asked. I am embarrassed to say that I was the self-appointed driver of almost every meeting.
As I matured as a leader, though, I began to see that letting other people “drive” meetings was a critical part of their leadership development. These days, the reason I have to ask who is driving as often as I do is because I am trying to raise up dozens of skilled drivers in our ministry. Might it be time to do the same in your context?
Whether it’s meetings or general ministry, these are the questions I’m currently asking myself:
- Am I the right person to be driving this meeting / initiative / decision / plan?
- Is there someone else who I could easily hand the wheel to?
- Am I guilty of grabbing the wheel once I’ve given up control?
- Do I give helpful feedback to those at the wheel, rather than turning into a backseat driver?
- Do my actions…overt or subtle…cause the person at the wheel to know that I want to be / think I should be in charge?
Where do you need to give up the wheel this week?
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