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There are many parallels between running schools and running businesses. Like businesspeople, teachers must figure out how to effect change on a large scale. Leaders can inspire others by having high expectations of them, then holding themselves accountable for equipping their employees to meet those high expectations. In Move Your Bus, Ron Clark asks leaders to consider the parable of a bus that runs on a team’s energy. Every hypothetical bus has a driver and different riders. Leaders must steer their buses toward change and inspiration.


The bus represents organizational goals and accomplishments. It can only be propelled by other people; it cannot be propelled by itself.

Runners Need Support

Runners are particularly motivated, energetic, and excellent employees. They are motivated by success, not just external rewards, and they have can-do attitudes. Runners are not above doing basic tasks when the job calls for them. Focused and driven, they have the tools it takes to succeed. However, runners gain professional success at the expense of their personal lives.

Managers of runners should keep in mind that these employees are likely sacrificing to perform so highly. Since runners are motivated by their internal sense of excellence, managers must be careful not to break their spirits or deprive them of support or direction. When a runner is not given the tools to succeed or does not have his or her efforts directed into the proper channels, he or she can become a destructive force.

Joggers Want validation

Joggers are reliable and steady workers. They are unable to sustain the same high standards and output of runners over a long period of time, but they do contribute to the team’s overall success. Though joggers meet basic expectations, they do not generally exceed them. They can be pushed, but should not be expected to perform at a high level for a prolonged period of time.

Because of their meticulous work, joggers often feel that they are doing their best and feel they are, in fact, runners. However, they typically have different perceptions of work-life balance and their abilities than runners. One of the biggest areas in which they differ is in their need for validation–recognition and praise fuel their efforts. When upstaged by runners, joggers can become bitter and threatened, but they can still play a strong supporting role.

Walkers lack Motivation

Walkers do not contribute to the forward momentum of the bus. In order to deflect blame, they enjoy criticizing the organization and complaining. They do this because they are trying to slow others down to their speed and protect themselves. They often latch onto new hires to recruit them to their ways and prevent them from reaching their own (threatening) potential. Because of their self-centered worldviews, it can be easy for walkers to monopolize the attention and resources that should instead be given to motivated, effective, and deserving runners. Walkers will take over what they can, the slowing movement to a stop.

Riders Are Dead Weight

Riders contribute almost nothing to their organizations and can frustrate both runners and joggers. However, they can be hard to spot because they tend to blend in when organizations lack clear performance metrics. Riders are threatened by comparisons and attention to their minimal efforts.

Drivers Steer the Organization

Drivers are the leaders who set the directions of their organizations, support runners and work on either improving or eliminating joggers, walkers, and riders. In fact, there is little hope for improving riders. People without strong work ethics simply slow everyone else down, and when riders turn into walkers, they are still a drag on the organization.

Because runners require so little input and encouragement to do a good job, it can be tempting not to give them attention. Runners can also have a hard time accepting help. However, helping runners frees up their resources, which helps them become even more productive. It takes much less effort to help runners maintain their speed than to turn riders into walkers.

Pointing out runners’ mistakes is often counterproductive because it can break their spirits. Usually, mistakes happen because runners have been given so much to handle. Drivers should always say “yes” to runners so that they continue to push ahead.


In order to accelerate, workers need to model themselves after runners, whose habits help them propel the bus forward. Every worker within an organization should either be a runner, be working on becoming a runner, or support the people who actually push the bus forward. There are many tasks employees can do to help move their companies forward:

*Get there early. Runners arrive at work and at meetings early. Arriving early and ready to go increases a worker’s worth within an organization.

*Wear your good clothes. To be taken more seriously, workers should always show up in neat, professional attire. People who have a runner’s work ethic and a rider’s wardrobe habits run the risk of losing others’ respect.

*Say hello. There is power in a simple greeting. Saying hello can help workers begin to network and build strong relationships that benefit them and their organizations.

*Sit with the runners. Sitting with high-powered individuals can open up opportunities. Not only does it open the chance to have conversations, but it shows where a worker fits within an organization’s hierarchy.

*Ask for help. When people are afraid to ask for direction, they cut themselves off from the tools that can help them succeed. Asking for help often makes it clear that an individual cares enough to do the job right.

*Accept criticism. Constant improvement cannot come without the ability to accept and tolerate constructive feedback. They should let managers know they are receptive and competent.

*Clean the windshield. People who are not in control should try to clear roadblocks for runners who need to be able to do their jobs without distractions.

*Take the hint. Workers should always pick their battles and learn to read the people they interact with.

*Listen more than you talk. Successful organizations are filled with attentive people who do not feel the need to hog attention or shoot down other people’s ideas. People who are not runners or joggers should not feel entitled to have their opinions and input heard.

*Stay in your lane. People who focus too much on what other people are doing can get sidetracked. By keeping their eyes on the road, workers can do their best work.

*Change the conversation to change the culture. Workers should refrain from negative conversations. Positive conversations yield positive results.

*Allow the runners to reap the rewards. Runners contribute more and work harder; hence, they deserve rewards, promotions, and recognition. Instead of complaining, lagging workers should step up their game.

*Exude a sense of urgency. People should move quickly as if their jobs depended on it. Moving without delay communicates a strong work ethic and predicts good results.

*Find solutions. Solution-oriented individuals who take initiative despite limited resources are valued.

*Realize you are not entitled to this job. A sense of entitlement erodes performance and creates endless excuses and roadblocks within an organization. Gratitude is important.

*Be credible. When workers honor their commitments and refuse to make promises they cannot keep, they set up their organizations for success.

*Pay attention to details. Fine-tuning details can make or break a project. Subtle touches make products more appealing and impress customers.


Leadership is a skill that can be developed over time, and leaders can become more efficient drivers by rising to the occasion.

Allow Runners to Shine

Great leaders allow their runners to shine. Since joggers, walkers, and riders often consider runners to be a threat, workplaces can feel hostile to runners and break their spirits. To let runners shine without upsetting other workers, leaders should figure out how to best leverage their talents and communicate how well everyone is doing. Awards, empowerment, and public recognition motivate runners, and that benefits everyone in the organization.

Help Joggers Do Their Best

Joggers need to be coddled and validated, but also pushed. Leaders can do this by commenting on the things their joggers are doing right and building their confidence.

Show Walkers How to Improve

Walkers may not have good role models, so they may need to be shown how to improve. Drivers must make their expectations clear and demonstrate their values. People do not know what they do not know, so they need to have things articulated to them. Drivers must determine which walkers are worth investing in and which should be let go. Either way, leaders can best maximize their walkers by assigning them to supporting roles.

Equip People to Meet Expectations

Leaders can “teach to the top” by refusing to lower their expectations and inspiring their workers to raise the bar. However, they must also lift workers up and give them tools for success. Once these tools are in place, leaders must motivate employees so they get excited about meeting their goals. By uplifting people, leaders can help them shine.

Get to the Source of the Problem

Approaching people directly about problems is more respectful and effective than broadcasting complaints throughout an organization. By nipping issues in the bud, leaders can ensure that everyone keeps moving forward.

Show Appreciation

When people do not show appreciation for little things, they will likely not recognize large contributions, either. People should show appreciation in both small and big ways to keep their organizations running smoothly.

Enjoy the Ride

Leaders who want their employees to put in the maximum amount of effort and passion must enable them to enjoy their jobs. Improving a worker’s physical environment can go a long way, as can encouraging laughter and fun.


Workers can always find a way to contribute more and improve what they are doing. They should avoid complacency, ask for help, and support one another. Given the right tools, everyone can find his or her passion and purpose and help the bus move along.

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