4 Lessons in Leadership From a Failed Office Drive-by


We have all encountered the ubiquitous office drive by – a knock on the door followed by “you got a sec?” At best, they are a productive diversion from our day-to-day routine. At worst, they derail our focus and deliver someone else’s problems to our doorstep. It was during my own failed attempt at an office drive by that I received important lessons in leadership that are still serving me 25 years later. 

Upon hearing my knock followed by “hey, you got a sec?”, the senior executive looked-up and replied, “It depends. 

  • Are you looking for somewhere to vent frustration? 
  • Are you looking for someone to help you think through an idea? 
  • Or are you looking for some feedback that will help you grow as a leader?” 

Without a pause, he went on to add,

  • “If you are looking to vent, I suggest you first be sure that it is worth your time. I have learned that it’s not worth my time. 
  • If you are looking to think through an idea, I suggest you first enlist some of your peers to develop a thoughtful proposal that can be submitted to the executive committee. 
  • If you are looking for feedback that will help you grow as a leader, we will find the time for that.” 

To be honest, I don’t remember how I replied. I think I said something about always wanting his advice on how to grow as a leader, but that I could see that he was clearly busy. All of which was delivered as I was attempting to stumble my way backwards out of his office. Needless to say, I left that exchange feeling embarrassed and with an appropriately bruised ego. With the benefit of a little time and intentional reflection, the exchange provided me 4 lessons in leadership that I still carry with me. 

  1. Leaders don’t waste time venting or complaining. 
  2. Be a good steward of others’ time and intentional with your requests.
  3. Leaders make the time to develop other leaders. 
  4. Model the behaviors we expect from others

So what about you?

  1. What is your process to convert “failures” into new learning – new action?
  2. What leadership lessons are your interactions modeling for others?

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