Who Has the Flashlight?


So picture this – you are camping with some friends, tents pitched deep in the forest off a little-followed hiking trail, campfire burning, Smores melting, stories flying – ahh, good times.  No moon in the sky, just a cold, clear fall night. 

The next thing you know… here comes the rain. 

Before long, the fire is out and it is so dark you can’t even see the remnants of your last Smore drooping down the front of your own shirt. What was once a nice journey suddenly seems to be changing to something quite different.

As the night progresses, the rain gets worse, the wind picks up and you and your friends decide it may be best to head back to the van to seek shelter from Mother Nature.  One small problem, no one thought to bring a flashlight.  

“What?” you think to yourself, “We brought all this stuff and not one person had the sense to bring a flashlight???”  But alas, there is an ounce of hope: one guy has one of those little convention hall giveaway flashlights filled with 2 AA batteries that might just last until you reach the main road. 

Image that the person with the flashlight is the one expected to be the one to lead the group out of the darkness and into safety. 

So think about your role as a leader.  Are you the one with the flashlight? 

Will those you are entrusted to lead follow you just because you have the flashlight or would they prefer to remain in the dark and in danger?  If you are the one with the flashlight, are you ready, willing and able to lead?  As a leader, there just may be many other campers who are waiting on you, wondering why you don’t turn on the light and lead them to safety.

Have you ever been led when the tides of good fortune began to change by someone unprepared to lead you effectively? How did it make you feel? Have you ever been caught in this type of turmoil as a leader? How did that make you feel? 

How can you use your past experiences and those of others to help prepare you on your next leadership journey?

One response to “Who Has the Flashlight?

  1. Nice story, Bryan.

    I, too, have been ‘left in the dark’ on many occasions when the person with the ‘flashlight’ had no idea how to operate it. In situations such as that, I would patiently and discretely show the flashlight-bearer where the on-switch was located and where to point the beam. I would follow the flashlight-bearer and subtly suggest paths to take in order to reach our mutual goal.

    It isn’t always necessary to be the ‘flashlight bearer’ in order to be the true leader. It isn’t necessary that everyone in the dark realize that it’s the person behind the ‘flashlight bearer’ that’s leading them out of the darkness and to safety. What IS important is that leaders find a way to lead…whether it be overtly demonstrated or covertly provided. The mission is to get everyone out of ‘the dark’…it doesn’t really matter who gets patted on the back or rewarded with a golden flashlight for his/her valiant efforts (of course, if I had a different philosophy, perhaps I’d be driving a Dodge Challenger, too!).

    I worked for a Harvard Law grad for nearly 7-years and remember, once, going into a courtroom to secure the judge’s signature on an order I’d prepared. He graciously greeted me and introduced me as ‘the man behind the curtain’. It wasn’t that I was the facial leader, but I appreciated His Honor’s recognition of me as the person behind the man with the ‘flashlight’.

    Take care, Bryan. I am enjoying your ‘blogs’.

    Oz (or…Scott)

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