The other day I had to get my daughter out of school early for an appointment. When I arrived at the school, I was informed that she was out on the playground and I could go find her there.
My daughter goes to the same elementary school I went to quite literally in the last millennium, but it was interesting to see the old playground that once seemed so big now did not. It was also interesting to see how the playground equipment has changed over those decades. Of note, there was no longer a merry- go-round on the playground anymore. I can’t say that I am much surprised. I can easily see how a youngster could be injured on that piece of equipment.
If you have ever ridden a merry-go-round, you may have enjoyed being on the edge of the device and going fast. Conversely, if you were at the centre of the merry-go-round, you would barely move at all. One of these positions is much more hectic. One of these positions is much riskier.
Yet the merry-go-round can also be an interesting tool to teach us about leadership.
Before we go forward, a friendly reminder – we are all leaders. Without regard to our age or title, we are all leaders in some capacity. We help someone at some time do something or go somewhere.
There are times when leading can go rather smoothly, and there are other times when it can be wild ride – just like riding a merry-go-round.
What is the difference?
Where we are positioned. There is a different speed at the centre of the merry-go-round. The environment for everyone on the merry-go-round is the same when measured in revolutions per minute, but the speed – how far you go in a minute – will vary greatly depending on where you are positioned. Additionally, the risk you are exposed to changes greatly depending on where you are positioned. If you are positioned on the edge hanging on by just a finger, you have a much greater risk of falling off than if you were in the centre.
So, what can we learn about leadership from this ride?
The main lesson that I take away is that we should strive to be in the centre of activity. When we are here, we gain perspectives that allow us to make better decisions to lead our teams well.
The problem is, it isn’t always easy to stay in the centre. We must continually be working to gain this position and perspective.
Let me challenge you to take a moment or two of self-reflection. How do you feel about your leadership right now? Do you have a calm, peaceful, purposeful perspective from which you are leading your team? Or do you find yourself in the middle of a white knuckle ride simply hanging on for dear life? There isn’t a wrong answer to the question. Where you are is where you are. The thing is: once you know where you are, that is when you can do something to position yourself closer to the centre of the circle.
Jesse McCullough, PharmD
Connect with Jesse on LinkedIn