Leaders Build Perspective

By: Todd Dewett Phd., Andersen Alumnus, author and speaker

Have you ever been a passenger in a real NASCAR vehicle? I have. The summary is simple: A client of mine held an event the Texas Motor Speedway a few years ago. They offered me and a few other VIPs a chance to go for a ride with a pro driver. The first year they hired me to speak, I declined. I had no real interest…and it sounded a bit scary!

They were kind enough to hire me for another event two years later and once again offered me a chance to ride around the track. I caved. I couldn’t say ‘no’ twice. Besides, I wanted to practice what I preach and go face my fears. What could go wrong?


First, you are not prepared for the heat and smell associated with the fire-retardant jumpsuit they make you wear, the full-face helmet they supply, not to mention the hot motor vapors coming from the engine into the cabin.

They help you get in through the window, strap you down with massive restraints, and then the rocket takes off! Long story short, it was half fun and half frightening for the first few moments. Such power. Such speed. Amazing.

Then on the second straightaway, the car in front of ours hit a small bit of debris, spun out, and slammed into the wall. My driver saved us by braking and turning sharply to avoid the wrecked car just a few feet in front of us.

Earlier, while we waited for our turn, I met the other people in my group. The person in the car that crashed in front of me was a very small and confident woman we all enjoyed meeting. She was funny – a person you remember. Now she sat in a smoldering mess being attended to by medical professionals.

A few minutes later, the remaining members of our group gathered together and watched as the ambulance drove way. Heavy stuff. Then it happened. Our tiny friend came out of the crowd and rejoined us. She had a small bandage on her chin, that was it – and she was strangely exhilarated.

A client rep approached just as some of us were beginning to talk about never getting in a NASCAR car again. He informed us that they would be ready in five minutes to load us up again so we could complete our rides. Me and two others were definitely not interested. We said nothing, but I’m sure our faces were quite clear.

Then our short new friend spoke up. She said it was a fluke and stated that the track is now clear and even safter than before. “We have to do this!” she said. “This isn’t how we want our story to end. Let’s finish what we started.”

We were all moved. She offered simple words, but they had a big impact. I did want to finish what I started! She was such an obvious leader. That’s what leaders do – they motivate. They give a nudge. They lead by example. They reshape ideas to make them feel more like opportunities and less like obstacles. They build perspective. She did all of that in about one minute. Wow.

The longer version of the story in the Dancing with Monsters keynote is full of hair-raising descriptions of being strapped inside one of those rockets, nearly hitting the spinning car in front of us, and the odd joy we all felt when we climbed back in and finished our rides.

It’s an emotional journey addressing leadership from the perspective of empathy, perseverance, facing your fears, learning from mistakes, leading by example, collaborating effectively, embracing candor with kindness… and the need to build perspective!

Dr. Todd Dewett is one of the world’s most watched leadership personalities: a thought leader, an authenticity expert, best-selling author, top global instructor at LinkedIn Learning, a TEDx speaker, and an Inc. Magazine Top 100 leadership speaker. He has been quoted in the New York Times, TIME, Businessweek, Forbes, and many other outlets. Todd has delivered over 1,000 speeches to audiences at Microsoft, ExxonMobil, Pepsi, Boeing, General Electric, IBM, Kraft Heinz, Caterpillar, and hundreds more. Visit his home online at www.drdewett.com or connect with Todd on LinkedIn. He can be reached at todd@drdewett.com