My family and I were traveling south on I-25 from Cheyenne, Wyoming to Denver, Colorado in our suburban while pulling our family travel trailer. All seven of us were nervous because it was pouring down rain outside. For those of you who have pulled a big travel trailer on an interstate in severe weather, you can understand our tension. Big rigs would pass us while spraying water onto our windshield making it difficult to navigate. To make the situation worse, our suburban broke down. Coasting to a stop and pulling to the right as far as I could, I felt the tires sink deep into the red mud of Colorado. We were miles from anywhere. I knew what was wrong with the vehicle, yet I did not have the resources or the knowledge of where to obtain those resources. In addition, you must know in a family with five children, the budget is limited. Somewhere behind us must be an answer, so I left my family on the side of the road and began my retreat to Cheyenne, some 13 miles back. I knew no one or where anything was located. As I wandered aimlessly, soaked to the bone from the rain and spray of traffic, I realized how desperate and hopeless I was; I needed help.
Help came in the form of an 18 wheeler tractor-trailer rig driven by one of the biggest truckers I have ever met. As I entered his cab, I learned what true leaders do for those who are stuck in the mud. He knew what was needed to get me going, what tools and parts I needed, and he knew how and where to get them. Within moments, he had me back with my family and under my vehicle fixing the problem. He made sure all was correct, double checking everything so this would not be a reoccurring issue down the road. He even had the foresight to bring food and drinks for my children who were hungry and tired and a little frightened watching dad walk into an unknown horizon. With his blessing, we were back on the road again making great time.
Leaders are people like this truck driver from Wyoming. They clear the path for us. We face obstacles with nearly every project. Our progress can be impeded from lack of resources, communication, or knowledge. Managers shuffle inanimate objects from shelf to shelf or warehouse to warehouse, whereas leaders deal with the human resource. Leaders show the way, give direction, vision, and guidance. A leader focuses on the person and how to help them succeed. They have the skill to see the wanderer and recognize an opportunity to lead and sometimes, when necessary, clear the path so the journey can continue. I will never forget this man and the example he showed me and my family. Besides, dad looked pretty good coming back with such great help.
Bill Kreiger is a professional speaker and international trainer for iSpeak, Inc. (www.iSpeak.com).
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