I wear the same pair of shoes to work every day. They’re nothing special, except for one thing. They are allowed to get dirty. Some areas of my shop floor have oil, and my shoes get messy. I learned the hard way that they do not belong in the house. So my work shoes sit in the garage and never go inside. Consequently, I take them off before I enter the house. At some point during my twenty minute drive home, I’ll reach down and untie them. I’m usually lugging my computer bag when I get home; so it’s nice to quickly kick off my shoes and go inside.
A couple of weeks ago, I had untied my shoes on the way home from work. As I approached the intersection near my neighborhood, I realized something was wrong. There was a truck in a neighbor’s back yard, and it had significant damage to the front end. The driver of a second car was attempting to back out of the yard as well. He was dazed and confused with blood running down his face. We had a little more than a foot of snow on the ground at the time. I took one look at this second car and knew the accident was not just a fender bender. The driver wasn’t making any progress because the front left side of his car was smashed badly.
I parked along the road and hopped out to see if everyone was okay or needed help. I ran into the snow covered yard and realized that my shoes were untied. They filled with snow as I walked from the car to the truck to check on each driver. Fortunately the driver of the truck was doing okay, not hurt too badly if at all. The driver of the car was bleeding and disoriented. He didn’t know where he was and needed medical attention. An off-duty police officer reached the scene at the same time; so he called the authorities, which were quick to respond. After doing what little I could to help the situation, it was time to leave. My feet were soaking wet and freezing cold.
This little experience reminded me of the importance to keep your shoes tied in leadership. It’s so easy to check out early, but leaders’ lives rarely afford it. You can be called upon at any time to hop out of the car and help. If your shoes are untied (or off), how effective can you really be? These poor people were just in a semi-serious accident, and the first person to help them had cold wet feet and was slightly distracted. It certainly wasn’t my best. So while a leader certainly needs time away, don’t untie your shoes until you get home.