Three Taverns Church

A Good Metaphor For Leadership


A funny thing happened on my bus ride home after work today. One of the emergency exits in the roof of the bus had a faulty hinge and the small, square exit door was flapping up and down in the wind. Every few moments the door would come down particularly hard with a loud *bang* and startle the other passengers.

I sat in my seat a few rows away and watched the other people watch the door pop up and down. Every few moments I’d catch someone giving the nuisance a furtive glance, then go back to their iPads and Kindles. It was obvious from the expressions on the faces of the other riders that the door was annoying them…but no-one was doing anything about it.

I began wondering why we were all sitting there, pretending the door wasn’t broken, pretending we weren’t annoyed that our after-work wind-down was being interrupted so rudely. When I thought of standing up and trying to close the door, I felt foolish and frightened. I realized that I didn’t want to be the guy to stand up and do something because that is such a risky position to be in. What if I can’t close the door? Everyone watching me will think I’m silly for even trying. What if I break it or make the situation worse somehow? Then people might get upset with me, maybe even the bus driver.

Then I realized this was a good metaphor for leadership. There was a problem that needed fixing, but no-one wanted to step up and assume responsibility because it was risky. Often great leaders are praised for their ‘vision’, but just seeing a problem isn’t enough to be a leader. You’ve also got to have the chutzpah to get off your butt and take some risks; if you won’t there’s a good chance no-one else will, either.

To bring my story to a close, I decided that I wanted to be ‘that guy’ after all: the guy willing to look foolish for the chance to stretch himself, and take a risk. I spent several minutes trying to secure the door, but to no avail; the hinge had snapped and there was no fixing it. On my way back to my seat one gentleman remarked, “Hey, at least you tried.”

Yes, I did.

5 thoughts on “A Good Metaphor For Leadership

  1. Great message! What if everyone just gave it a shot? How different would the world be?

    • Thanks, Jason. The fact is that everyone won’t give it a shot…but there are dormant leaders out there that need to be ‘woken up’ and energized to do what they can.

      • Yes, they need to be woken up. There are dormant and natural leaders all over that have clue. From the time we were little we were taught that following external rules and expectations was the key to success. Adults need to learn, the rules have changed! That is not the key to living a fulfilling and passionate life. If you now right from wrong (integrity) you must define your own rules beyond that. We all have the opportunity to do so. It literally takes people to be woken up and shown the choices they have. The wild card is, where are they in their life when they realize this? Are they married? Do they have children? Are they in a career that doesn’t align with this new found world? The sooner they learn the better… the sooner the learn, the more freedom and opportunity their life will have.

  2. great story and great message. I prefer to be the one that tries to fix the flapping door too. Good for you!

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