Drivers and Passengers and Other Leadership Lessons

I recently read a book called “Monday Morning Leadership, 8 Mentoring Sessions You Can’t Afford to Miss”, by David Cottrell.

It was written in 2002, so it’s not a new book, but I had somehow either missed it or don’t remember reading it (a phenomenon those of you under 30 won’t relate to).

It’s one of those easy reads, about 100 pages, which suits my blogger attention span.

It’s a true story about a new manager, Jeff Walters, who’s really struggling. He seeks out advice from a friend of his father, Tony Pearce, a successful entrepreneur and executive coach.

Tony agrees to meet with the Jeff for a series of 8 Monday morning mentoring sessions in order to help him become a better leader.

I really liked the lessons and examples. Here’s an excerpt from the first Monday lesson, about making the transition from individual contributor to leader, and the one I liked the best, called:

Drivers and Passengers
Tony recalls when Jeff was 16, the second day after he got his drivers license, he had an accident, and most of his soccer team was in the car with him. That’s a story that hit home with me.
Tony and Jeff’s father felt that the main reason for the accident was Jeff’s failure to understand the difference in responsibilities between being a driver and being a passenger.

“You see, passengers are free to do a lot of things the driver can’t do. As a driver, your focus needs to be on the road and not on the distractions. As a driver, you no longer have the right to ‘mess around’ – like listening to loud music – even though it seems OK to do that as a passenger.

The same principle applies when you become a leader. You’re no longer just a passenger; you become the driver. Even though your responsibilities increase when you become a manager, you lose some of the rights or freedoms you may have enjoyed in the past.

“For instance,” Tony continued, “if you want to be successful as a leader, you don’t have the right to join employee ‘pity parties’ and talk about upper management. You lose the right to blame others for a problem in your department when you are the manager and leader. You are the person responsible for everything that happens in your department, and that can be pretty hard to swallow.”

Being a leader means you give up being “one of the guys” (or gals).

I’ve seen so many new managers struggle with this transition, of going from “buddy to boss”. As a matter of fact, I’ve seen a lot of experienced managers who have never made the transition.

The “driver vs. passenger” example really drives (sorry) this leadership principle home.

Two of the other lessons I liked were “Escape from Management Land”, about the importance of not letting yourself become out of touch with your people, and “Enter the Learning Zone”, about the importance of reading, listening, and giving back.

Here’s something from the “Learning Zone” lesson to think about:

-Most people don’t read one non-fiction book in a year.
-If you decided to read one book on leadership or management in a month, that would amount to about a half chapter per day, which would take you about 10 minutes.
-During the next year you’d have read 12 books.
-Do you think you’d know more about management and leadership if you read 12 books a year on the subject? When the next job opening at a higher position in your company comes up, would you be better prepared to assume that role?
-In 15 years, you could read 180 books just by reading half a chapter per day.

I’m wondering if an updated version of the lesson would include reading blogs about management or leadership? How about one blog post per day?