Leadership Inertia: Trucks Passing on the Freeway

Traffic can be very irritating. After living in Los Angeles for several years, I am an expert on this subject. Freeway traffic in L.A. is crowded, crazy, and scary. Now I live in Nebraska, and the traffic is not so bad. The roadways aren’t crowded. The drivers are more courteous than crazy. I’m no longer terrorized by a trip on the freeway.

But in the long Midwest stretches of freeway one must travel here, there is a different kind of frustration, an irritating phenomenon that many of you have experienced: trucks passing on the freeway. In Nebraska, the freeway speed limit is 75 mph, and many people go faster in the rural areas. (Many routinely drive 85 mph when the road is clear.) The interstate highways are usually two lanes each direction. The roads are well maintained very straight, and built for speed. Why, then, do I constantly encounter a truck in the left lane going about 52 mph attempting to pass a truck in the right lane going 51 mph? These two overloaded behemoths block all traffic, sometimes taking many agonizing minutes to clear. The slowdown and congestion this causes makes me feel like I’m back in L.A., except there is no cityscape around. This phenomenon has sometimes been called a Race of Elephants. I’m not so sure, because elephants can run pretty fast.

On a recent drive back to Omaha from Denver, it seemed like this happened to me dozens of times. It caused me to ponder, though, am I like one of those trucks when it comes to leadership? Does my leadership style resemble the truck that blocks the way and slows everyone down? Do I lumber through my responsibilities in a way that frustrates younger leaders who want to move faster?

Congregational style of church government requires consensus building, and I know that takes time. I have been one of the impatient ones in the past, frustrated by resistance to change and institutional inertia. But I pray that my vision of progress is better than that semi inching past another slowpoke. May God give me the wisdom to know when to get out of the way.


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