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Driver’s Ed for Leaders

A July 5, 2005, article in the Wall Street Journal described the increasing popularity of advanced driving schools. Intended to lower accident rates by teaching modern defensive-driving skills, these programs update many of the approaches we learned in high school driver's education classes. For example, the old rule of pumping the breaks in an emergency does not apply in cars with antilock breaks. And remember learning to steer in the direction of a skid? If your car has front-wheel drive, you'll want to steer in the opposite direction.

A primary defensive skill taught in the classes involves training drivers to spot an opening and steer toward safety. In exercises simulating a car veering into a driver's path, most untrained participants respond by hitting the breaks and steering into the encroaching vehicle. With practice, drivers learn to look where their car needs to go--rather than fixating on the impending danger.

There's a lesson here for leaders, too. How often do we allow difficult employees or hapless coworkers to draw us into workplace collisions? We let distractions--like complaints, personal agendas, and gossip--become roadblocks. And then we struggle to regain control and get back on course.

So, like a skilled driver, focus your attention on where you want your organization to go. When danger appears in the form of negative people swerving into your lane, steer yourself and those around you toward your ultimate destination: the fulfillment of your .
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