Leading In The No Wake Zone


I took a deep breath and tried to process the name on the back of the boat in front of me. The letters were printed backward making them difficult to read.

Just seconds earlier, the truck towing this large boat had pulled out of the driveway onto Suwannee Dam Road, forcing me to slam on my breaks. We slowed from 40 miles an hour to zero in a matter of seconds, our seat belts keeping us glued to our seats.

DON’T PANIC … I suddenly realized what I had been reading. Quite an ironic name for that particular boat.

“Easy for him to say!” I blurted out. A quick glance in my rear view mirror confirmed that we narrowly missed getting rear-ended by the vehicle behind us.

The pick-up truck and the boat continued toward the intersection as I caught my breath. “That was the most dangerous, reckless, selfish driving maneuver I’ve ever seen!” I exclaimed to my wife Debbie.

Absolutely clueless!” she replied.

Following this frightful episode, our reckless driver pulled another dangerous stunt. Without warning the truck swerved into the turning lane. The light was red and we had a few cars in front of us.  We had barely pulled up next to the truck when the driver suddenly cut across the intersection.

Left In The Wake

Unfortunately, his second reckless decision in less than a quarter-mile left a wake of destruction behind him. In order to avoid crashing into the side of the boat, the driver of the mini-van was forced to slam on his brakes.

No!” shouted my wife. We watched in horror as the woman driving the SUV smashed into the mini-van crushing both vehicles.

True to the name on his boat, the driver of the pick up truck did not panic; nor did he stop. He just drove off to the lake, leaving the rest of us to sort out the details he left in his wake.

My wife and I could barely process what we had just seen, but the sequence of events was indelibly burned into our minds. I could see the two innocent victims introducing themselves in the center of the road in my rear view mirror.

We have to go back and be a witness, I said.  “Otherwise, the police will blame that poor woman,” Debbie added.

By the time we turned around, got back to the scene of the accident twenty-five other cars were being directly impacted by the careless driver’s actions. The SUV was leaking fluid all over the road and the woman was in shock. “I’ve never been in an accident,” were her first words. “Please stay with me.”

Fortunately, neither the drivers nor the woman’s two young daughters who were sitting in the back seat were injured. The man looked at the fluid and said, “Internal damages. Looks like she blew a gasket.”

A Wave of Destruction

After the police took our statements, and informed us that “the owner of the boat would not be charged because he was not directly involved,” I nearly blew a gasket or two of my own. I was steaming!

Not directly involved. Are you kidding me? None of this would have happened if he hadn’t been involved.

On the way home, we couldn’t stop thinking about the owner of that boat and the injustice related to the entire scene. “Those poor people will now spend money and lose time fixing the damage he caused,” I said. “And the driver of the pick up truck will go on about his business, spending the day on the lake as if nothing had happened,” replied Debbie. “That’s just not right!” we agreed.

“I wonder if the captain of DON’T PANIC observes the rules in the NO WAKE ZONE on the lake,” I mumbled. Based upon the way he endangered the rest of us on Suwanee Dam Road I doubt it, I thought to myself.

Leading In the Zone

As leaders in our homes, communities, and businesses, what can we learn from this accident scene? How might the driver of the pick-up truck’s irresponsible actions influence us to act more responsibly?

At a minimum, this situation has caused me to think about the people I leave in my WAKE ZONE each day. When I drive by others on the road, are others positively or negatively impacted by my actions? Are they better or worse off than before I crossed their path?

While it occurred to me that others may admire an assertive leader with a DON’T PANIC mantra, what if the reason for that leader’s demeanor is based upon a reckless, clueless, and selfish approach to business and life?

Imagine how dangerous our daily commute and our daily interactions in the business world would be if every leader adopted a DON’T PANIC, JUST CALL A MECHANIC approach to achieving their own goals.

If left unchecked, what impact would this type of leader have in the workplace?

What if, instead of protecting his or her followers’ best interests, the leader only protected his or her best interest?

As my wife and I learned on Suwanee Dam Road, we can’t always rely upon laws or corporate policies to hold our leaders, ourselves, or our neighbors accountable. That’s why, as leaders, we must establish our own NO WAKE ZONE policies based upon our core values.

Bringing It Back Home

We must value others more than ourselves if we expect our teams to follow us safely down the road we’ve established for achieving the goals of the organization.

One final thought: If you happen to know the owner of DON’T PANIC please pass along this message: on behalf of those he left in his wake: DON’T PANIC, BUT WAKE UP AND CONSIDER OTHERS WITHIN YOUR WAKE ZONE, before your actions lead to more serious damage!

Do you know of a leader who doesn’t appear to care about the impact he or she is having on others? What if the “employees” who assume they are operating in a NO WAKE ZONE are actually in a high risk zone? What if their leader wouldn’t think twice about pulling out in front of them to take full credit for their work or cutting corners to achieve his or her own goals? What actions can you take at work to create a NO WAKE ZONE?

Bookmark Leading In The No Wake Zone

Joe Colavito is Vice President, Development and Delivery at Wells Real Estate Funds
He is an Inspirational Speaker, Storyteller, Author, and Coach
Email | LinkedIn | Web | Web | Blog

Edited by Ken Jones

Image Sources:  flickr.com, fotosearch.com, calininjury.com, photobucket.com,mizzenmast.com

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2 responses to “Leading In The No Wake Zone

  1. I enjoy Joe’s writings. He is real – and shares from his heart!
    Joe is living what he writes about!

    thanks Joe!


  2. Pingback: Bill Clinton urges HIV/AIDS groups to be more efficient | Personal services·

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