The Narrow Roads Jan 2015

Bob_Anton_Narrow_RoadOver the past 35 years, I have had opportunity and privilege to serve in leadership capacities in various organizations.  Some positions of leadership, I desired and sought after.  Others I was encouraged to take by people who claimed confidence in my ability to lead.  In every, case bar none, I found one thing to be true; organizations, no matter how well run, no matter what the cause, goal or agenda, are full of back seat drivers.  And those drivers can be counted upon to do two things.  1) They will pressure you to carry out their private agendas.  2)  They will hide like cockroaches in a well lit room when it comes time for someone else to take the reigns of leadership.

There is a reason why we don’t speak kindly of backseat drivers and armchair quarterbacks.  It’s because they critique and operate from a place of relative safety while others take all of the risk and do the difficult work.  I personally have come to despise such actions.  I’ve spent way too much time brokering peace deals between people who will not lift a finger to help the organization move forward but can sure put up road blocks when things don’t go their way.  One of their favorite mantras is ‘if things don’t get done the way I want, I’m quitting!’ You know what I’ve learned?  Call their bluff.

My sister who once ran a fairly large social club, taught me a simple trick that actually works quite well.  Whenever someone created a problem for her over the way something was being done, she appointed that person the new coordinator for that specific project.  She did so, at the very next business meeting, with the full intention of putting that backseat driver on the spot.  With all eyes upon them, they had no choice but “to $%!t or get off the proverbial pot”.  Well, some of them chose to get off and never dared to open their mouths again, while others brazenly took the challenge that they had been given.  In doing so, they learned a valuable lesson, about how difficult it is to lead difficult people.  Either way it works out pretty well.

So if you’re in leadership, I commiserate with you.  Hang in there, yours is a noble work.  If the rank and file are demanding, then deal with them the best you can.  That’s all part of being a leader.  But if they bust your shoes and threaten to quit, assign them a job or show them the door.  If they go, you’ll be happier for it and likely so will everyone else.

And if you’re rank and file, then cut your leaders some slack.  Tell them that they’re doing a good job from time to time.  Theirs is a difficult and often thankless work.  Unless you want their job, with all the associated headaches, you best treat them kindly.  Otherwise they may walk out the door and leave you in charge.   You think about that.  God bless you and….

See you on the road.

Bob Anton, Christian Motorcyclists Association

For more information on CMA or questions or comments concerning this column, please contact Bob Anton at 631-897-8122 or