For those of you who spend a lot of time on the road, you know that cruise control is a great asset . . . sometimes. When you are driving long distances on a relatively flat stretch of road, you want to stay within clearly identified boundaries (i.e. speed limits), and you are willing to give up the control of having your foot on the gas pedal at all times, then the cruise control is an absolutely wonderful device. If, however, you are on very hilly terrain, making lots of starts and stops, or have widely fluctuating parameters, then using the cruise control is not such a good idea.
You also have to know when to use the cruise control on your leadership journey. For routine tasks — those long trips on flat ground with predictable conditions — by all means, put it on cruise. That may mean giving up a bit of control by delegating the job to someone (or something) else, or at the very least minimizing the time and energy you devote to the task. This can be hard for new leaders and perfectionists, and it’s certainly not required, but cruise control is one way a leader can lighten the load a bit.
At the other end of the spectrum is the leader who uses cruise control too much, and as an excuse for not paying attention. Have you ever been driving with the cruise on and suddenly realized you weren’t exactly sure where you were on the way to your destination or were caught off guard by something in front of you because you weren’t really focused on the road ahead? Your mind wandered a bit because, well, you had the cruise on . . .
For leaders, over-reliance on the cruise control may mean there is less attention to trends coming down the pike or the conditions of the road ahead. It can mean missing the landmarks that serve as guideposts to ensure you are still on the right path or feeling a bit invincible because the ride appears to be going so smoothly. Using the cruise control simply makes it easier to miss “the little things” that really aren’t so little in the long run.
The key is to know when to use the cruise, and when to manually manage the gas pedal. As with most of leadership, there are no hard and fast rules. It takes experience, individual judgment, and an awareness of the conditions around you to know if it is okay to cruise, or if you need to keep your foot on the gas. Cruise or control, manage or delegate . . . you’re in the driver’s seat. Lead on.