I’m bothered by drivers who are at the front of the line at a traffic light but don’t move when the light turns green—a lesson for leaders.

This is a commonly shared frustration. It’s been with us since the invention of the auto, but it’s gotten worse because of mobile access to social media. 

It frustrates me when people are unconscientious, unfocused, and unaware, particularly if they are positioned such that their lack of focus affects other people. For instance, if I’m beside you at a traffic light and you don’t move when the light turns green, no problem, I’ll drive on. But when you’re in the front of the line and don’t move when the light turns green, it adversely affects everyone behind you because we can’t move until you move. 

Let’s apply this “I can’t move until you move” dilemma to leaders of organizations. This problem occurs when a leader (the one out front) is passive or indecisive. Momentum stalls because the leader won’t take his foot off the brake. For a while, the organization may continue to survive—treading water based on previous initiatives and current operational systems—but there’s no forward movement so eventually the group will be stymied.  

Leaders, that’s why you must initiate. Move your foot from the brake to the accelerator. Your followers will not go around you and probably not even honk because they want to be compliant, loyal followers; so it’s up to you to begin. 

Equally damaging is for a leader to press the accelerator before he or she knows the right direction in which to go. This produces unfocused and wasted activity. The solution is for the leader to have clear and compelling vision, communicate well, and then get going. [Crafting vision is one of the 12 indispensable skills in the Lead Well curriculum.]

Remember, leaders: your followers won’t move until you move, so move.

[reminder]What are your thoughts about this essay?[/reminder]

8 Replies to “I’m bothered by drivers who are at the front of the line at a traffic light but don’t move when the light turns green—a lesson for leaders.”

  1. Don, my son is guilty of not always starting up when the green traffic light comes on because he is much of the time engaged with his phone. Ditto with my daughter. Reminds me of the cartoon I recently saw of a scene in heaven where the bearded man with wings greets the new arrival and tells him “Actually, you had a pretty great life, but you were looking down at your phone and you missed it!”

    1. James. You’re right; our unlimited access to our phones has made driving more hazardous. I like the cartoon you refer to; its sad but true.
      Thanks for writing.

  2. Don, I agree, with one notable caveat: https://newsroom.aaa.com/2019/08/red-light-running-deaths-hit-10-year-high/
    As a teenager, young adult, and even later in life, it was fun to be the first off the block. I am a safe, responsible driver; in 1985, I even took the 3 day, Bob Bondurant High-Performance Driving Course. I wish I’d taken 4 days!
    However, in recent years, there has been a marked increase in drivers running red lights, causing fatalities & injuries to themselves and to innocent passengers of cars in the intersection who have entered when the light turned green for their direction of travel. Consequently, to avoid injury or death, I have intentionally delayed moving immediately when the light turns green until certain the intersection is clear of red-light violators.

    1. Roger, I completely agree with you. Take a second or two to scan what’s happening in the intersection. I do think after 2-4 seconds, the lead car should move. My larger application was to leaders needing to initiate, in which case there’s plenty of time to consider and evaluate before moving forward. My biggest complaint is with leaders who do nothing…for months and years.
      Thanks for taking the time to write.

      1. Understood. That’s why I wrote ” I agree…” Your larger application was not lost on me. Thanks for your website and for allowing me t0 subscribe! There are many valuable reflections to be found here.

  3. As a UK resident with a house in Florida that I spend the winter at I can honestly say that the drivers in Florida are the worst I have ever experienced. No signalling, sit in any lane without moving, constantly on their phones, don’t move when the light goes green having sat there five minutes etc etc.

    There are so many accidents because people just don’t know how to drive correctly. They undertake at the same time as another driver overtaking and then both converge on the same lane without signalling. Slam. Saw one guy with a full laptop on his steering wheel. The most ‘unaware of what is going on around them’ people I’ve ever come across. I sat at lights while counting the cars coming the other way – 18 drivers in a row on their phone or texting. Morons.

    1. Bill, thanks for sharing your thoughts. I share your frustration with drivers that are unaware of their environment. There should be a pill for that. Don

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