This is part of the series Lessons from the Backseat

Often when people talk about management or leadership they talk about getting in the driver’s seat. It sounds good, doesn’t it? Being in control. You are at the wheel and you have a clear view ahead. But what about the passengers in the back seat? Do you ever stop to listen to them? After my children were born, I would stop at traffic lights and just look behind me at my two miracles in amazement and wonder. Little did I know that literally from my backseat would come some of my most important lessons in leadership, life, and love.

When my son Aris was three-years old I would strap him into his car seat every day before heading off to preschool. One day, my husband and I had to share a car as mine was at the mechanics. Hubby was driving so I was relegated to the passenger seat. I got in first, expecting that he would strap in Aris. Imagine my shock when my husband put him in the car seat and said ‘buckle up’. Then, I watched open mouthed as my ‘helpless’ son struggled briefly with his three point harness and snapped them all in place.

photo credit and copyright owned by Arlene Amitirigala.

I listened in utter amazement as my husband said ‘good job’ and then they exchanged a high five, each with victorious grins. And then we were off. How could it be that I had absolutely no idea what my son was capable of. All this time, I was fussing over him and doing something that he was perfectly capable of doing himself. I felt a rush of disappointment and struggled to find the lesson in this.

So often we don’t try because no-one forces us to.  We become complacent and actually start believing in our self-imagined limitations. 

Are you being stretched, given the opportunity to flex your creativity, try your hand at something you have been itching to do? The best kind of leader knows how to give us room to aim higher and accomplish more. Ask for the chance and then give it a go.

And if you are in the driver’s seat, the next time you are tempted to show someone exactly how to do something, or worse, to do it for them, hit the pause button, step back and give them space. Give them the freedom to succeed.

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© Arlene Amitirigala 2020. All Rights Reserved.

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