Leadership Signs

An interesting morning.

At my place, we drop our kids at the gate till the school bus. About 10 kids go in the same bus to the same school. Most days many parents are around and they ensure that all kids get on the bus. Sometimes (infrequently), I go there to drop my daughter. This day I happened to walk her, then the bus came, I got her in it and the bus left.

When I was returning back, I saw few kids still around – they didn’t get in. One of the parent (lets call him Mr.S – a very good friend of mine) was running back to his house to get his car to take them to the next stop. I found out soon after that this bunch of kids didn’t know the bus was there. And the bus left without them! The bus conductor should have waited or called for other kids – Its not just one kid but 3 kids didn’t make it to the bus. And that never happened before.

I was narrating this to my wife and we had a small argument about it. The incident became an argument because she had a different point of view than mine. She laid part of the responsibility on me (not the bus conductor) – and that upset me. How could I be responsible for it?

Some time later, I had a chance to reflect on the incident and I agree with her. Looking back, there were some tell-tale signs that I completely missed. In hind sight, those signs should have made me a bit more alert.

Here is the full version of what happened.

Usually there are multiple parents around – at least 5. Today it was just me and S. That was unusual. I could have been more careful.

Usually S is extra careful. But today, he was a bit distracted because his kids forgot some school stuff and he had to run back home and bring it. In all this chaos, looks like he didn’t notice the bus coming, neither did he notice that other kids (and me) were walking to the bus.

Usually my daughter is slow (and one of the last) to get into the bus. But today she was ahead. That’s unusual too. That could have signalled that other kids didn’t notice the bus.

To my defense, I didn’t know that these kids didn’t get in the bus. After my daughter got in, I went to the other side of the bus next to her window and couldn’t see the bus door from there. So I didn’t know that these kids didn’t get in.

Even after the bus left, had I seen the kids hanging around, I could have called for the bus to stop, but today it so happened that I saw another neighbour and we were chatting a bit. So it was a few minutes before I started my walk back into the gate – and only then I saw the kids who missed the bus.

Typically the conductor of the bus ensures all the kids are in.
Typically the gate security guard also checks.
Typically more parents are around.
Typically S is very alert.

But this wasn’t the typical day – and there were signs all around – and I completely missed it.

And that’s what happens in our work too. In your business or your job, typically things happen, but there are always tell-tale signs that as leaders we should be watching out for. People ask the definition of leadership. There are many, but one is to go beyond what is “typically” expected of you.

This day there was such a leadership opportunity, and I failed.


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