Every team needs a leader – but rarely can one individual set the course, trim the sails, maintain course and stabilize the ship by him or herself without the help or assistance of others. True leaders emerge during times of trouble, turmoil and strife – riding the strength of their convictions to success – as they leverage the abilities of others to accomplish exponential multiples of what they could have achieved by themselves. While there should be very little difference in one’s leadership style when facing success OR unexpected hurdles (whether at work, at home or in a relationship), far too many “competent” individuals take full responsibility for accomplishments and excuse their action (or inaction) by blaming them on or deferring them to others rather than sharing credit for things done well and accepting responsibility for actions that may have led to unwanted consequences. A good leader bends to fit into their surroundings rather than standing firmly against life’s storms. An exceptional leader utilizes all the resources at his or her disposal to ensure success, safety and continued progress rather than seeking personal praise and short term-gain (popularity, acceptance, being “liked”) while pursuing excellence.
Leadership (and life) could be thought of as a ship at sea – needing a form of propulsion, a means of stabilization, a method to control direction and a way to hold fast in order to safely travel a charted course in the pursuit of a not yet discovered destination. When setting and communicating a course of action, a Leader must take responsibility for his or her actions AND the consequences of the team’s actions by taking ownership of a situation rather than blaming another for an unfortunate circumstance – accepting and facing reality while constantly pushing towards an anticipated destination. He or she must act as a sail by capturing the wind to push the team forward – anticipating and avoiding changes in the winds that could disrupt progress. Without a sail (or motor, for the less classical thinker), a ship will drift endlessly upon the currents without intentional motion or expected results. A sail pushes a ship forward much as a good leader encourages forward progress by recognizing and anticipating the contributions of each member as the team progresses towards a final destination. When propulsion is removed, a ship will stall. When leadership is missing, a team may wallow and a relationship may drift aimlessly and before eventually (possibly) reaching a destination (which is often unplanned, unexpected and less than ideal).
A ship needs both a rudder and a keel in order to “stay the course” as it progresses forward. Without some form of steering a ship cannot turn – and while the quickest path between two points IS a straight line, life rarely provides unobstructed access to our goals. Without some kind of stability – a keel or ballast beneath the surface – a ship will tilt, lean and possibly capsize before it reaches its destination. A Leader must ask the right questions when investigating a situation – listening for useful input from others – while steering around obstacles (or correcting missteps) in the pursuit of a final objective. A Leader takes his or her personal obligations (and credibility) more seriously than his or her personal work expectations. Anticipated or planned objectives invariably change but a course charted by intentional thought and navigated with integrity can lead a team through any unexpected obstacle or unwanted disruption. Trust is not earned easily but MUST be attained through consistent demonstration within an individual’s life as it often becomes the stability that keeps a team on course. While taking the easy road that needs no navigation or situational stabilization (ignoring a situation or partially concealing a truth) may be less painful and create fewer short-term disruptions or distractions, individuals preferring to dodge responsibility for their choices and actions will never be seen as credible leaders when they are provided the opportunity to lead – and straight and narrow paths through waters having no turbulence are rarely encountered in life.