Lead Where You Are

Once there was a farmer who was searching for someone to help him take care of his farm. Three qualified and experienced ranch hands applied for the job. He asked all three the same question: ‘Tell me, how long can you work with a stone in your shoe?’

The first person answered: ‘Half a day!’ The farmer thanked him and sent him on his way.  “The farmer asked the second person and he proudly replied, ‘All day long!’ The farmer sent the second helper on his way.

The third man was asked, ‘How long can you work with a stone in your shoe?’ Without hesitating, he replied ‘Not a minute. As soon as I get a stone in my shoe, I take it out.’ The farmer hired him on the spot.

The third worker was not waiting for a better time, or for someone else to take care of his problem. He was not willing to suffer with it for even a minute. The farmer knew that the worker could be depended upon to take charge, solve problems, and create a more comfortable and productive day.

Maybe it is time to shift from waiting to be led to leading where you are. If you have any ‘stone in your shoe,’ take charge and get rid of the stone. Many people who work days and sometimes years with stones in their shoes, stones such as inaccurate information, confusing direction, contradictions, or simply their ideas being ignored. The stones rub and rub and rub. For a while, they irritate you. Then, they create a callous on your foot, and you may not even remember that there is a stone in your shoe. You are still receiving bad information, confused, torn by contradictions, or ignored, but you rationalize the situation with ‘This is just the way it is.’

I have also seen people wait until they have more than one stone in their shoe before getting rid of their first stone. They wait until there are multiple problems and then present a list of problems to fix all at once. That is pretty absurd. Don’t wait. Take the stone out as soon as it gets in your shoe; even the little ones could become a crisis while you are waiting for the right time to get rid of them. That does not help anyone. When you have a stone irritating you, address the issue right away so you can begin moving forward.

Here are a few points to ponder as you coach your team to lead where they are:

  1. When someone on your team has a “rock in their shoes” do they have the permission and the authority to remove it?
  2. Does your team know they can lead their own performance?
  3. Have you created a “lead where you are” environment for your team?

Based on the book LeaderShift … Making leadership everyone’s business.

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