Standing in the Gap: Leadership Lessons of a Crossing Guard

When I am in town, I am available to the Tarpon Springs Police Department as a substitute crossing guard.  I fill the gaps in coverage.   I’m going to share some of my observations but first, I’m going to answer the question you are asking yourself.  Yes, the picture is me.  For the record, let me say that I know the uniform (which is 2 sizes too big) and my height (which is short) makes me look like a minion.  But…since it’s not about me I just smile and wave at all the drivers, walkers, bikers, and cyclists until called upon to activate my crossing guard skills.

Observation #1
Not everyone is a morning person.  So when I wave, some will smile, some will wave back, some will be annoyed. Wave anyway.

Observation #2
There is a difference between the job (be alert, identify gaps in traffic that allow the guard to stop traffic) and the purpose (to stand in the gap so students safely cross the main street in town).   Know your job.  Understand your purpose.  Be ready to stand in the gap.

Observation #3
Each child deserves to be valued, not merely tolerated.  Be welcoming.  Be encouraging.  Be kind.

Now apply those observations to how you lead. Simple things can make a big difference.

Application #1
As a leader you set the tone for the day.  If you are too busy to acknowledge others, you are too busy.  When entering a room…look up.  Make eye contact.  Greet your teams with a word or a wave.

Application #2
You complete tasks.  You lead people.  Know the difference between your job and your purpose.  Help your teams to understand their individual and collective impact within their department and the organization.  Identify gaps and allocate resources to fill them.  Communicate well.

Application #3
Your employees are your greatest asset.  They are your voice. They work on your behalf.  Each has value.  They have to be equipped, encouraged, and empowered to bring value.  As a leader, it is your privilege and responsibility to discover, nurture, develop, and align the talents and skills of your team members.  Having the right person, in the right position, at the right time, doing the right thing, for the right reason, will yield the right results every time. Employee engagement begins with engaged leaders.

One last thing.  If you visit Tarpon Springs, Florida on a school day, be sure to wave.

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