Leadership Lessons from the Fields of Firebaugh Pt 2 by Benny Bajoyo
In part 1 of this blog, I began the story of how car trouble while I was a college student taught me some lessons about servant leadership. Here’s the rest of the tale.
As we entered Bakersfield, the bus driver announced we were making an unscheduled stop due to mechanical issues. Greyhound was going to have to send another bus to deliver us to our final destination. Of course, this didn’t sit well with any of the passengers, but Chris, Andrea and I were too exhausted to protest. We just wanted to get back to our campus — even if it was on a back of a donkey.
After our bus deposited us in a Denny’s parking lot, we used the pay phone in the restaurant to call my roommate and let him know when we expected to get to the bus terminal in San Diego so he could pick us up. Less than an hour later, several white vans arrived and we climbed into the one headed to San Diego. To our luck, one of our fellow passengers was the eager young recruit. For the balance of the trip, we talked with other passengers, and the recruit occasionally tried to make the conversation all about him and his planned exploits. We shared our story, and also found time to talk about school and finals — and our relief at having our ordeal behind us.
Just short of 24 hours since we broke down on the side of Interstate 5, we pulled into San Diego’s bus station. My roommate could not help but laugh about our adventure. The conversation was definitely relaxed; we were relieved to be in familiar surroundings and have only predictable expectations ahead of us.
Fast forward many decades to today and there are many lessons I can pick out from this experience. If I had to do one thing over again, I would have gotten the name and contact information of the tow truck driver, even if it was just to be able to send him a thank you card for his kindness.
Why did I write this story? As we age, we can lean on our life experiences and learn about servant leadership in our daily lives. By no means are there earth-shattering concepts from this story, but in addition to realizing how much experience matters — which I noted in the first part — here are a few nuggets I hope you can relate to.
Good leaders must be trustworthy. When we eventually got on the bus in Fresno, we relinquished control to the bus driver, because we assumed he knew exactly where to go. We even managed to ignore the distraction of the hoots and hollers the young recruit was making. Our concern at that time was to get back to the dorms and study for our exams; we focused on that goal and let the leader deal with the logistics of getting us there.
Group makeup matters. After we left the bus and were on the van headed to San Diego, the group dynamic changed. The conversations became more personal and relational. We all knew the direction of our journey and had the same more narrowed goal; no distracting stops stood in our way to enter familiar territory together. When someone mentioned Lemon Grove or Point Loma, we all knew about the area. The group dynamic was more manageable, even if one person was not quite on the same level of discussion as the others.
Leaders need other leaders. While enduring challenges on the road trip, Andrea, Chris, and I had to rely on other people for the leadership strengths they had — from the tow truck driver and the mechanic who officially diagnosed our Honda to the bus driver. We had to lean on people who possessed strengths we didn’t. Even as servant leaders, there are times we need to step aside to let others take the reins in a leg of the journey.
Those who rose as leaders in various stages in our journey eventually allowed us to reach our destination. Without the right people in the right circumstances, we would have stayed longer in the fields of Firebaugh.
How do leaders lean on other leaders in your organization? Please share your thoughts with us at firstname.lastname@example.org