Directions in Leadership

I have interesting clients.

Not “interesting” as in some Sigmund Freud shrink, scratching his chin and saying “Hmmm, interesting,” as we lie on the couch droning on and on about the deeply-rooted events of our drama-filled childhood… more like “interesting” as opposed to dull, routine and boring.

As much as I hold myself out as an accomplished coach, consultant, and something of a leadership expert, I learn from these interesting clients each and every time I interact with them.

For example…

I was speaking with a client senior exec regarding his impact on the team. As all strong leaders tell me, he said, “Kevin, my job’s not hard, anyone could do it.” Not true, of course, and I said so. I reminded him that his job may seem easy to him, and may look easy to others, but is, in fact, the manifestation of myriad skills, behaviors and competencies.

I then added that he needed to set the right vision, develop the appropriate team, and influence others to pursue their own growth and development.

To which, he sighed and said, “I simply tap the rudders behind the ship.”

Wow. One short sentence conjures up a plethora of images in my head. Like this lonely dude in a rowboat, tied behind this massive ship, occasionally tapping the rudders to stay on course.

A bit funny, but also damned true.

Now certainly, there’s a ton of front-end work to do, processes to establish, people to hire, teams to build, cultures to develop, even hard and fast rules to create.

But in the end leading a team is about tapping the rudders. It’s about minor corrections or affirmations as they charge full-speed ahead, eyes on the horizon.

You aren’t the helmsman, turning the wheel to adjust for major course corrections. You aren’t the engineer, responding dutifully to “All ahead full!” on the intercom. As a senior exec, you aren’t even the executive officer on the bridge, coordinating regular activities.

You’re following, in tow, making small, nuance course corrections to a fast-steaming vessel.

Simply tapping the rudders.

Less “Steer course to 230 degrees” and more “Out there… thataway.” (unabashed Star Trek reference)

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