Anyone who has been a leader or anyone who has chosen to follow a leader knows that some of the most impactful and memorable experiences are not the big events but are, literally, the ‘moments.’ At this ‘moment’ the leader must act or appropriately react. Greenleaf reminds us that we must prepare for these moments AND YET we do not really know what we are preparing for (Think: We can often prepare for the ‘big event’, the ‘moment,’ by definition, surfaces in an instant – we cannot ‘see it coming’).
The servant-leader is charged with preparing for the ‘leadership moment’ without knowing what he or she is preparing for. In addition to ‘preparing without knowing what one is preparing for’ the servant-leader must also be open to ‘the moment.’ It is easy to miss ‘the moment’ if one is not prepared, if one is not awake and aware and if one is not intentional and purposeful. Even an ‘in your face’ moment can be missed.
A STORY: For years Greenleaf and his family lived in New Jersey. Each day he would take a train and a subway and travel to his office in New York. Each morning and each evening he would, upon entering the train or subway, look for the emergency cord. He would take a few seconds and imagine himself in a situation where he would have to jump up and pull the cord. He emerged a number of different scenarios that would require his jumping up and pulling the emergency cord. He repeated his ‘preparation’ each morning and evening for years.
One morning, after he had settled in his seat on the subway, he noticed a man trying to get into the subway car by blocking the door with an arm and leg. The door did not open. The subway started to move. Greenleaf immediately knew that the man would be crushed if the subway was not stopped. There were others on the subway who also saw the man’s dilemma. In fact, a number of them were standing right below the emergency cord. No one pulled the cord.
Greenleaf, in the ‘moment’ jumped up, reached over people, pulled the emergency cord. The subway stopped just short of where the man would be crushed between the subway and the concrete wall.
This was a ‘leadership moment.’ Greenleaf had prepared himself without knowing what he was preparing himself for. When the moment presented itself Greenleaf was, indeed, prepared AND he was able to appropriately react; he did not have time to ‘respond,’ he needed to react. Although there were others standing within reach of the emergency cord none of them thought of pulling the cord. A number of folks missed the moment. They had not prepared themselves for the moment.
Gentle reader, in what ways are you preparing yourself for ‘the moment?’ In what ways have you already prepared yourself for ‘the moment?’ Are there ‘leadership moments’ you have missed? Are there ‘leadership moments’ that you have prepared yourself for and appropriately reacted to when they presented themselves?
I refer you, gentle reader, to Jan Carlzon’s little book: ‘Moments of Truth.’ It is still a classic today.
Next time we will begin to explore some ‘Helpful Disciplines.’ These are some of the disciplines that will help you prepare without knowing what you are preparing for.