The Leadership Boat

Updated: Sep 11


Leadership. We all talk about it, but what does it really mean, and more importantly, what impact can it have on your company.

Leadership is a concept that has been around for many, many years. Some say people are born with it, and others say it must be acquired. I say it is both. There is no one size fits all approach to leadership. That being said, there are some important aspects we must consider when evaluating the leadership within our own organizations and what we need to do to strengthen it.

To use a boat analogy, you might be in a canoe or a bass boat, a cargo ship or a navy destroyer, a Mississippi River paddle steamer or the latest cruise ship with 6000 passengers. Each of these floating vessels takes a different crew, are managed differently and require different skills to make it move. However, they all have one thing in common. It takes the leadership of a captain or person in charge to get the boat from point A to point B.

First, we must decide what it means to be a leader in our own organization. Because every company, non-profit, club or international conglomerate is unique, leadership styles work differently in each organization. A company’s history, management, purpose, mission, and most importantly the people within will usually dictate the leadership style that works best.

What does your organization require of your leaders? What competencies are most important to ensure the captain and his crew continue to steer the ship in the right direction and get you safely to your next port of call?

Second, once we have determined what a skills leader must have, we need to train them to lead our boat. The paddle steamer captain must have an intricate knowledge of the layout of the river and understand how his boat will react not only to the crew and steam engine, but also to the current of the river. The destroyer captain must know the elaborate systems for propulsion, defense, and weapons as well as manage the crew of hundreds for weeks and months at a time without a port of call.

To captain each of these vessels requires very different training. Just because a captain can take the helm of one ship doesn’t mean they will be successful with the other. What is the best way for a leader in your organization to learn the ropes? Practice makes perfect? Book knowledge? Classroom training? On-the-job experience? Again, one size doesn’t fit all. However, the common challenge with both examples is gaining the skills necessary to safely navigate and lead the ship.

Third, communication is critical for any leader. Imagine you have 5 people in a large canoe and everyone is paddling in a different direction. At best you’re going in circles and at worst you are standing still. Without the proper communication and instruction, you may never get to your destination. Communication is just one of the many leadership “soft skills” a captain needs to command a crew.

I could go on and on with the many skills necessary to be an effective leader and how to implement those skills. In fact, someone should write a book about it – or hundreds and hundreds of books. I think that has already been done…. I have included a list of ten of the many leadership books I have found to be effective for my clients and me. There are many more excellent books out there so take the time to find the one, or ten, that positively impact your leadership.

One size doesn’t fit all, and you need to find the leadership style that fits you and your organization.

10 Leadership Books from Chad’s Library

If you have a book that brought you new insight or helped you navigate tricky waters,

leave me a comment and let me know!

Engaged Leadership, Clint Swindall

EntreLeadership, Dave Ramsey

Good to Great, Jim Collins

It’s Your Ship, Captain Michael D. Abrashoff

Leadership is an Art, Max DePree

Reality-Based Leadership, Cy Wakeman

Rebooting… Leadership, Meredith Kimbell, Richard Hadden, Bill Catlette

The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, John C. Maxwell

The Leadership Challenge, James M. Kouzes, Barry Z. Posner

The Leadership Code, Dave Ulrich, Norm Smallwood, Kate Sweetman

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