Things Feel Different in the Passenger’s Seat

(296 words, 3-minute read)

Individuals in leadership positions are in the driver’s seat.

When you’re the driver, you have control of the wheel … at least until autonomous vehicles become the norm. 

You not only know where we’re going, but more about each decision you’ll make along the way. You’re proactive, on offense, moving things forward.

In the passenger seats, things feel different.

We don’t have the same sense of control and comfort with our speed, direction, degree of the turns, etc. 

We can’t prepare for your sudden veer left or rapid acceleration because we don’t know they are coming.

We’re on defense, reacting to what’s happening to us.

What’s true in the car may also be true right now in your life, your community, your organization. Overall, more people in more situations find themselves in more of a defensive position than usual, managing and reacting to the changing conditions of the current challenging environment.

Despite present uncertainty, individuals in leadership positions still must go on the offensive and take action. We have to put both hands on the wheel and try to steer the organization through these difficult moments.

You’ve likely charted an initial path, anticipated adjustments to make along the way, have your hand on the gear shift, and are ready to accelerate and brake as feedback indicates.

But it won’t look or feel quite that same way to your friends, family, or colleagues if they’re only strapped into the passenger seats. They don’t want to be taken for a ride, particularly right now.

Rather than relegate them to back seat drivers whose hesitance you may interpret as resistance, elevate and engage them as co-navigators for the journey. Communicate more often and more frequently about the final destination, the paths being pursued, the milestones to measure progress, and the planned rest stops along the way.


Jeffrey Cufaude is a long-time member of the LeaderShape community, having served as an Institute Co-Lead facilitator, presenter at Co-Lead training, and contributor to curriculum for both the Institute and Catalyst. He blogs at and can be found on Twitter @jc46202.

He currently does limited consulting on learning experience design, organizational development issues, and building facilitators’ competence and confidence.

2019 Palmer Award Winner

What a joy it is to announce the recipient of this year’s Palmer Award! Please meet and congratulate TahLea Wright!IMG_0616 2

TahLea is a student at Moravian College (PA) and attended the 2018 national session of the Institute in Massachusetts. TahLea’s vision work in the year that has passed since she attended the Institute has focused primarily on empowering students, with special attention to young women of color, to step into leadership and advocacy.

TahLea has engaged in her work on the local level as a Summer Youth Program Coordinator in 2018 and 2019 through the Volunteer Center of the Lehigh Valley with the responsibility of co-creating a leadership and service program for area high school students. In 2018, the focus of the program was Homelessness and Food Insecurity in the Lehigh Valley and TahLea engaged the participants in the program through interactive activities, guest speakers from local non-profit organizations, leadership exercises, and a service project. This program lead to the creation of the Youth Volunteer Council at her college. The mission of this council is to be the premier resource that coordinators and connects a diverse culture of youth to community service within the Greater Lehigh Valley. In 2019, the summer program included a World Café event, giving the students the opportunity to be in round table conversations with non-profit representatives from five different organizations. For a glimpse of how the program unfolded, take a look at a video that TahLea created about the week.

Through the Office for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Moravian College, TahLea had the opportunity to serve as a THRIVE Peer Mentor. Not only did she support her two mentees transition to college and through their first year of college, she was there for them when they applied to serve as mentors themselves. Good news – they were both selected!

IMG_10211Working on the goLEAD program has given TahLea valuable experience toward her longer-term goal of creating a national after school program pairing elementary and middle school students with high school and college student mentors. And her involvement as a THRIVE Peer Mentor has provided a direct line to young women of color, a community that TahLea cares deeply about. TahLea is also Vice President of Gamma Sigma Sigma, a national all-inclusive service sorority, and was named the Outstanding Sophomore Leader of the Year through Omicon Delta Kappa.

Ultimately TahLea wants people to know that they can be successful, feel cared for and loved for who they are, and to believe that they can make a difference as leaders and advocates. We can’t wait to see what is next for TahLea and her vision work!


2019 National Sessions of the Institute

LeaderShape believes that leadership involves living in the state of possibility, making a commitment to a vision, developing relationships to move the vision into action, and sustaining a high level of integrity. We believe that effective leadership takes place in the context of a community and results in a more equitable society.

It is this definition that serves as the foundation of the Institute. The Institute is IMG_2341an immersion experience that allows participants to work collectively to live in this world of possibility as they explore their values, who they are, and who they want to be.

While together, they will develop a vision that is grounded in their deepest values.

In 2019, we will host three national sessions as follows:

  • May 12-17, 2019: National session of the Institute in Boston, MA
  • July 21-26, 2019: National session of the Institute in Champaign, IL
  • July 28-August 2, 2019: National session of the Institute in Champaign, IL

In 2019, we are also offering a 4-day session of the Institute. We have conducted pilot sessions of this format of the Institute with our campus partners and are now hosting it as a national session. The date for that session is:

  • May 20-23, 2019: 4-day national session of the Institute in Champaign, IL

We recognize that for many participants, finding six days away is not possible and we don’t want time to be a reason someone doesn’t attend the Institute. The 4-day Institute is formatted to provide the Institute experience in a shorter timeframe to help engage more participants. The curriculum for the 4-day and 6-day Institute are the same; the difference being the pace of the days.

If you are interested in learning more about the Institute and sending students
this summer, please contact Vernon Wall at
or call the LeaderShape office at 800-988-LEAD (5323).