We were late getting out the door, and I had to grab the first pair of shoes I could find. I was taking my daughter to school and right by the back door were my flip-flops. I shoved my feet inside and we hustled out the door. A block into our walk, I turned to my daughter and said, “I feel uneven, I think I put on two different flip-flops.”
I looked down and sure enough, I had a left and a right flip-flop, but one was black and one was brown. Even more troublesome than the mismatched color was the the sole thickness. My left foot was on top of a thick soled flip-flop. It made my left leg a half-inch taller than my right leg which had on it a thin soled, cheap, and minimalist flip-flop.
Already running late, I had no choice but to finish the walk to school and then return home. Thankfully the school isn’t far, only about six blocks, but that twelve block round trip walk taught me the importance of making sure I had on matching shoes. Even after twelve blocks, I felt off. I spent the whole time looking like I was walking with a limp, and by the time I got home my back hurt from the crooked walking.
I kicked my flip-flops off as quickly as I could when I walked in the door, relieved to be back on even ground.
The more I thought about it, the more I see how that taught me something about leadership.
Three important truths about leadership.
1.) Don’t rush through it. I thought that any shoes would do. As long as I had two shoes, I could get the job done just fine. I was wrong. Similarly, we can’t rush through leadership. People aren’t just looking to you to get a task done, but to help them grow and thrive. Don’t just go through the motions in leadership. Show up. Be fully present. Give everything you have. You can’t rush good leadership.
2.) Small things matter. The difference in my sole thickness was only about an inch. But that inch made a world of difference. I walked funny, I felt funny, and not long after that, the pain started. In leadership, we often feel pressure to ignore small things. But small things can quickly become big things. Just like my body was out of alignment in only twelve blocks, small things can transform or damage our leadership if not dealt with quickly.
3.) Limps aren’t the worst thing possible. It felt weird limping for twelve blocks when I wasn’t hurt. In a good pair of shoes, I would have been just fine. It was odd because it was fabricated by my shoes. I’m perfectly healthy. In leadership, we all have a limp. We’ve all been hurt or damaged in some way. We’re not the perfect leader all the time. In short: we limp. But in leadership, that’s not a bad thing. It can actually help us and serve us. We can connect with others when we are honest in the ways we limp.
The situation with my shoes was easily remedied. When I got home, I put on the correct pair. Leadership however, is not something that can be switched so easily. Steward it well and use what you have to serve others.