Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Get the "lead" out

It’s been a while since my last post. Sorry about that. This has been an extremely busy summer. Among other things, my family and I moved from the valley to a home in the nearby mountains—which, consequently, leads me to my thought for the day.

A couple of weeks ago, early on a Sunday morning, we were driving “down the hill” and, as is often the case, we found ourselves in a winding line of cars accordioned together by a slow vehicle in the lead.

The shortest route connecting our small town to the valley below is a two lane, state highway. There are four, brief segments over the fourteen mile stretch where the road widens, providing an opportunity for motorists to pass slower vehicles. In addition, there are dozens of “turn-outs” along the road. Signs are posted, encouraging slower motorists to use these “turn-outs.” Funny, no matter how long the line of cars behind them, few of the slower drivers seem to recognize that these signs refer to them.

There we are, riding our brakes down the twisting mountain road, praying the hunter green minivan in the lead will take the not-so-subtle hint. Alas, no such luck. So, we wait in restless anticipation for the next passing lane. Sadly, however, if one finds oneself more than two vehicles behind the lead car, the chances of passing the offending tortoise are sketchy at best. Hairpin curves and steep grades present a worthy challenge even for the most skilled drivers. Often, only a vehicle or two break away. The remaining seven jockey aggressively in a 20 second free-for-all, eventually settling into a new, but equally frustrating configuration.

A small, white sedan that had been veraciously tailgating our minivan pied piper eagerly passed at the first opportunity. I watched in envy, fully expecting the car to slip quietly away into the serpentine distance. On the contrary, we watched in head-shaking resignation as the sedan settled into a pace negligibly different than that of the minivan. I might have been surprised if I hadn’t witness the same phenomenon countless times before.

As the noxious stench of burning brake pads wafted inexorably through the morning air, I thought to myself, “dissatisfied followers make lousy leaders.” How many people make it a life theme to discredit, defame, second guess, and work around those out-in-front? But, when granted the reigns, either by gift or by coups, they demonstrate a keen lack of innovation or meaningful direction.

A few miles ahead, our not-so-merry band of travelers caught up to another small string of vehicles, held captive by a large RV. The driver of the behemoth, more considerate than many, pulled over into a suitable turn-out and the now lengthy parade of motorists made their way past. Both cars that had initially been trapped behind the RV resumed a tempo quite a bit brisker than the white sedan had previously maintained. You guessed it! The driver of the white sedan began hugging the tail of his leader—exercising the tenacity of a would-be revolutionary, desperate to triumph over his malicious oppressors.

The simple truth is that most people—in spite of all the complaining, the character aspersions, the social tailgating—need a leader to follow; an official pace car, if you will. It’s much easier to apply the pressure than it is to deal with it. Ask Governor Schwarzenegger.


Mark said...

I think you have tapped into an important aspect of human nature, that it is easier to complain about the situation than to actually summon and command resources to do something about it.

In your example, when a new car becomes the "leader" they realize that driving downhill on the mountain road wasn't as easy as they thought. They then realize that perhaps the vehicle they just passed may have been doing them a favor by restraining their impulse.

Mark said...

I also find it ironic that one of the definitions of governor also applies to your example:

"a device for maintaining uniform speed regardless of changes of load, as by regulating the supply of fuel or working fluid."

A governor is the device in the U-Haul you rent that keeps you from going faster than 55...Too bad Arnold failed that function in the area of state spending.

Sandra said...

There are so many aspects of leading and following, as many as there are people. Mine (in traffic) I hate to go too slow for the posted limit, but I like a nice steady pace. I look for someone whose driving skills I approve of that is not in the fast lane, get behind that person and follow at a reasonable distance. That removes some of the stress of continually checking my speed, watching for those that want to pass, or figuring out how to pass and offending slow driver. I like your analogy because that is how I am as a believer. I want a good example in front of me, one I trust to follow "the rules of the road", keep a steady pace, not too aggressive, not to passive.....

That leader must hold tight to the core principles of faith, use judgement not to offend those whose belief or interpretation of scripture is slightly different than his.

landqueen said...

My first thought jumps to two other options:
1) the driver who takes the long route ("the road less traveled)
2) the driver who decides not to drive at all

The reaction of the followers to the 'governed' leader and to the leader who takes a different path is often the same. The followers tend not to like either one! Both leaders hold to their convictions (the first, to taking the well-traveled path and sticking to the rules and the second, to carving his/her own way perhaps to be innovative or perhaps to be contrary) and in so many cases the followers are not capable of having the necessary conviction to lead.

Followers get very irritated by the leader who chooses not to drive at all also. While they think they like the freedom to forge ahead at their own speed, they are not happy about not having someone point out the proper direction.

Leading is rarely easy.

Katie said...

Brilliant post. Nuff said. :)