Less than two weeks after Hurricane Harvey devastated the city of Houston and surrounding cities, the United States braced for another deadly storm, record-breaking Hurricane Irma. The Category 4 storm devastated several Caribbean islands and before heading in the direction USA state of Florida. Millions who live dangerously near the coast and were forced to abandon their homes and communities. All of those cars attempting to evacuate needed fuel. One of the greatest concerns was making sure enough fuel reached the gas stations in the evacuation path so people didn’t run out of gas in the middle of their escape. Imagine trying to flee a deadly storm, only to be stuck in the middle of nowhere with an empty tank.
Life Requires Fuel
Our lives also need fuel — physical, emotional, even spiritual fuel. As leaders, we are not necessarily fleeing danger, but constantly running in the direction of our vision. This means we may require more fuel than the average person. The consequence: we are more at risk for running on empty.
How to Avoid Running on Empty
There are several reasons why leaders can end up with an empty leadership fuel tank...
We can be so focused on our vision that we speed ahead of everyone else. We know where we are supposed to go, so why not get there faster? Let me give you two reasons why we should keep a balanced pace.
To Conserve Fuel: There is a sweet economic spot around 55 mph, or 90 km/h, that saves fuel. Too fast or too slow can be wasteful. The same applies to leadership. We need to find the balance between going fast enough and conserving emotional and physical fuel for the long journey.
To Allow Others to Keep Up: Have you ever traveled in groups? The cars in the front of the line must keep an eye on the cars behind, making sure they keep up. Leadership is the same. The faster leader needs to keep a pace that allows slower “drivers” to follow. After all, what is the point of getting to your destination alone, with no one is there to share it with?
Loaded trucks use a lot of fuel. One-man/woman-bands who try to carry the entire load of the vision may run on empty.
The solution is simple – delegate.
A friend once taught me that delegating creates space for leaders to focus on higher priority items which move them closer to accomplishing their God-given vision. Delegation eases the load and conserves leadership fuel.
Obstacles and Detours
Getting through obstacles and taking detours are realities of leadership that can push the vision further away and require extra fuel. The answer is to create margin, that is, plan your journey with enough surplus fuel to reach the end. Plan for the eventual obstacles and detours.
Driving on paved roads is not that hard, but leaders often find themselves driving through uncharted territory with rocky roads and mud pits. Driving in this kind of terrain is an art — push too far and you will dig yourself a hole impossible to get out of. In leadership, this may mean slowing down and taking it easy on the gas pedal.
An Important Question
Every person escaping the hurricane this past weekend was wondering if they had enough fuel for the journey. If leadership is a journey, you must ask the same question. Are you in danger of running on empty? What can you do to turn the situation around and conserve fuel for the rest of the trip?