On a cold, dark winter morning, a soldier rode out of his encampment and noticed a group of his comrades desperately trying to put a log on the top of a wall they were building. Each time they attempted it, the beam fell. The men were exhausted and ready to give up. The only thing stopping them from throwing in the towel was a corporal, who was barking orders.
The soldier asked the noncommissioned officer why he didn’t lend a hand. “Don’t you see, I’m a corporal?” he answered, not realizing who he was talking to. Without saying a word, the soldier dismounted and helped the infantrymen put the timber in place. He then told the men that if they needed any assistance again, just send for him—their commander and chief.
Why would George Washington take time to help build a wall? Because the man who would become the father of our country knew that the war could not be won without the loyalty of his troops. Our country’s success depended on their success. And the way he accomplished this task was through servant leadership.
Why do I bring up this story because more and more I see bosses at the racetracks, bosses in life, and the servant leadership is missing. Compare a boss to a leader:
– a boss takes credit for everything a leader shares the credit with his or her team,
– a boss demand that tasks get done as the corporal above, a leader asks for the tasks to be done and may jump in and start the task like George Washington above,
– a boss generates fear a leader inspires enthusiasm,
– a boss says I a lot and a leader says we,
– a boss drains people to the point they want to quit a leader grows people eventually hoping to have someone replace him or her,
– a boss knows how it is done but a leader shows how it is done.
Do you see people like the boss, don’t you wish they were like the leader? Over the years at the various tracks I have worked we have hired people who when they put on the uniform of an official you find out quickly whether they are a boss or a leader. In the past I called this the red shirt syndrome because there have been people who put on the official’s shirt and suddenly they are boss, you will do what I say type people. Yet most officials are of the servant type personality, they are there to support the track, the racer, and the sport. Yeah they make mistakes just like we all do. I have made my fair share and been blasted myself. They get blasted on social media by the want to be officials until the time comes to step up to the task.
One type of boss that drives me crazy is the boss that has been in the sport for a long time and will tell you there is nothing new to show them. We learn every day when we stop learning we should be done. A recent example of this in the racing world is a racer brought a different car to a racetrack to compete in a race which was a makeup race and the boss would not let him run in the makeup race because he was in a different car. Yet later it was determined so was another competitor.
As Competition Director at I-70 Speedway I was faced with a very similar situation. We had a 100 lap race which the rains came at lap 4, which meant rescheduling for the next week. This presented a dilemma for one of the racers, Doug Richards who had borrowed a car from Troy Vandiver to compete in the race. You see Doug’s Chevrolet car had been wrecked the week before the 100 lapper and the repairs were not complete at the time of the 100 lap race. The car he borrowed was a Ford. Doug called and asked if he could finish the race when it restarted in his Chevrolet. I called Jerry Cook of NASCAR and provided the circumstances and asked the question. The answer was since we did not impound the cars how would we know if on the way home Doug lost the trailer and car and replaced it with a new car, so yes Doug could race his Chevrolet. That same answer should have applied at this racetrack as there were several weeks between the race make up. A boss who had seen it all would not let the kid run his new car. Never be afraid to ask questions especially of those who have experienced this type of situation before.
Our sport, this country, and our very future depend on more and more people serving instead of being served.