Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Gaslight Leadership

This morning on my way in to work I noticed that my gaslight was illuminated.  I typically pay little attention to the gas in my car on a day to day basis.  I realized that I had gotten into the dangerous habit of waiting for the gaslight to tell me I needed gas.  

I guess this isn't the worst practice if you are driving in a populated area with gas stations all around.  It is fairly easy to stop once the light comes on and fill up.  

What would happen if you weren't paying attention and the light comes on with no gas stations in sight?  In essence, you would be stranded.  I believe that this waiting for the light to come on phenomenon extends past the gas in your car and into the leadership practices of many.

Many leaders have become heavily reliant on the data that is fed to them while ignoring the critical daily data points along the way.  I receive data reports that are delivered on a quarterly, semi-annual, or annual basis.  This data is important but it has also lead to a gas light approach to leadership. The problem with waiting for data is that it often comes in too late to correct the course, change actions, and make a difference.  

As a leader don't wait for your organization's gaslight to come on before you decide to alter your course.  Focus on your daily practices, conversations, and observations.  Pair this qualitative data with your data reports and you will be far more likely to yield positive results.  It definitely beats being stranded on the side of the road with no gas station in sight.  


  1. Great metaphor, Brian! I love it. A good remeinder that we need to be proactive and not wait for a "crisis" before we act. I guess it is good advice to always run on the top half of the tank.
    Thanks for the post.

  2. Great post and so true! From the perspective of a former teacher, this kind of leadership could be shown by taking initiative, analyzing both formally and informally the "data" provided by student performance on given tasks, and then reflecting upon that data in order to improve ones craft, regardless of state mandates and accountability measures. Thanks for the very vivid and effective use of metaphor. I look forward to reading more of your posts. I would love to have you check out my blog as well.