Leadership Perspectives Blog

A Lesson in Leadership – One Snow Shovelful at a Time

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Two feuding neighbors offered an opportunity to demonstrate how leadership in action extends beyond the workplace.

Winter Storm Jonas left its fingerprints across the crinkled pages of the East Coast history book as one of the most prolific snow-producing weather events of recorded time. In its wake, there was more than a story or two about courage, survival, fortitude, determination, compassion and leadership.

One of those stories is this one: a tale about two feuding neighbors offered an opportunity to demonstrate how leadership in action extends beyond the workplace.

It is early morning in the Mid-Atlantic states, the Sunday after Winter Storm Jonas unleashed its wrath with thirty or more inches of snow and fifty mph wind gusts.

The scenery now is uniformly brushed in the color of snow, as if reminded by nature that we are all in this together: one world, one place.

The calm after the storm quickly yields to the impending activity of the day: snow removal.

There are two neighbors, each after their own cause, each looking to remove enough snow to clear a path for their vehicle.

Their parking spaces share the same corner. This is all they apparently have in common. Their vehicles, at ninety degrees to each other, are entombed by the aftermath of Jonas.

There is no room in the small parking lot to place the snow other than on the center median where most of the other residents are placing the snow.

One neighbor manages a head start, shovel in hand, gloves, glasses, heavy jacket, boots, warm pants and hat on.

After about four hours, the first neighbor clears two narrow paths for his truck tires to pass.

He shaves down the snow barely enough between these two paths so his vehicle can clear it.

The job is done, in his mind. All set. Time for some hot chocolate and marshmallows.

His neighbor follows and does the same thing except doesn’t move the snow to the center median. Instead, the second neighbor shovels the snow back into the same area the first neighbor just cleared. The snow pile reappeared.

You guess it. Out comes the first neighbor. The argument between the two nears the brink of an altercation.

As they both talk over each other, neither notices a small-framed elderly woman shoveling her area four parking spots down.

Minding her own business, she moves her snow pile to the median bit by bit. She works feverishly, seemingly to avoid the verbal dispute between her two neighbors.

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Advice, best practices and strategies for safety performance and professional development. For more, visit http://ehstoday.com/leadership.


Stefanie Valentic

Stefanie Valentic is an associate editor for EHS Today magazine, a Penton Media Inc. publication.  A native of Cleveland, Ohio, she has been in B2B publishing for eight years. Her work has...

Sandy Smith

Sandy Smith is editor-in-chief of EHS Today magazine, a Penton Media Inc. publication. She has been writing about occupational safety and health and environmental issues since 1990. She has been...
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