August 15

Lessons from a Family Road Trip | WT #64

The end of summer is approaching, and with it a time that frequently was consumed by family road trips. I know I have my share of mine, both as a kid as well as a parent. Of course, the family road trip is not just about reaching a destination; it can be a journey filled with lessons in leadership and life. These (mis-)adventures can often teach us more about ourselves and our ability to lead.

When planning a road trip with family, what might be the quintessential leadership challenges one might face on such a trip? As a parent, these are the ones that typically concerned me:

  • Strategically packing the car for maximum efficiency and comfort.
  • Deciding the seating arrangement – who takes the coveted middle seat and who gets the back.
  • Setting and communicating clear guidelines on device usage during the trip.

Sound familiar? Such scenarios can be a microcosm of larger leadership challenges. How can we ensure that our journey (or any leadership task) brings out the best in us and others? Here are some insights based on my road trip experiences:

Tone Matters: I’ve realized the importance of tone in communication. A request, suggestion, or even a reprimand can be received differently based on how it’s said. Think about it: haven’t there been times when the same question, asked in two different tones, elicits completely different responses?

Re-dos are Okay: Nobody’s perfect. If you’ve conveyed a message with the wrong tone or sentiment, it’s heartening to note that most people are receptive to a ‘do-over.’ They appreciate the effort to communicate better.

Listen and Adapt: Sometimes, leadership is about listening and adapting. Recognizing when to stand firm and when to compromise is key, whether it’s about a pit stop or a business decision.

Whether you’re in the driver’s seat of a minivan packed with excited kids or leading a team towards a project deadline, the principles remain the same. Prioritize open communication, maintain the right tone, and be ready to adapt and learn.

Most importantly, the first step to effective leadership, be it on a family road trip or in the boardroom, begins with self-awareness. Understanding our own temperaments can profoundly affect how we lead, respond, and communicate. The Authentic Leadership Foundation offers tools to aid in this journey of self-discovery. By truly knowing ourselves, we not only become better leaders but also cultivate deeper connections with those around us.

About the author 

Darren Smith

Darren Smith is Co-Founder of the Authentic Leadership Institute. He is a native Texan and a graduate of Dallas Jesuit and Texas A&M University. Over the past 25 years, Darren has visited 35 countries and led 100 strategy programs. He and his wife have five children.


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