Posts Tagged ‘mentor’


Via Flickr user !Lauriin
Via Flickr user !Lauriin

Go to the beach. 

That’s not something you think of when you’re studying leadership, is it?  Yet there are leadership lessons all around us.  I spent some time with good girl friends at the beach this weekend, and as I relaxed with a borrowed beach book, I started to think about some lessons the beach could teach me with respect to my leadership journey.

Build sandcastles – Have you ever tried to build a sandcastle just using your bare hands?  It looks more like a big pile of wet sand than a castle.  But when you use a mold like a bucket or some other shape, it’s a different story.  Bucket after bucket, before you know it you’ve got something that looks like a castle.  The bucket is helpful because it shows you what shape to use, but don’t be afraid to innovate or use the form in unusual ways to create a truly creative, unique castle. 

Leadership is much like building a sandcastle: it’s helpful to have some sort of frame to guide you initially, but you can’t be afraid to improve the form with a little bit of your own personality.  All leadership is not identical.  In the end, you have to be the leader you are comfortable with being.  Be you.  Inject personality and you’ll have quite the leadership structure.

Use the lifeguards – Lifeguards are on the beach every day, practicing and honing their skills so that they can be successful when their skills are required.  If you need help, they come running to your aid.  As a leader, you don’t have to go it alone, and you certainly don’t have to save yourself. Find a mentor to be your lifeguard, to test the water conditions for you, and to throw a life saver at you when you need it most.  Look toward those who have a little extra training and experience to provide guidance on your own leadership journey.

Just pick up one seashell at a time – Sometimes I feel overwhelmed by the call of leadership.  How can I, one little person, influence others to become better leaders?  How can I get my organization to change its culture and foster an environment that values servant-leadership principles?  The answer is in a story (not sure of its origin). 

A child is walking along the beach, picking up shells.  Someone asks the child what she’s doing.  When the child explains that she’s picking up all the shells on the beach, the person laughs and tells the child that she’ll never be able to pick up all the shells.  It’s much too big a job for anyone.  The child just continues to pick up one shell at a time, confident that she will succeed.  Eventually, others notice the child’s determination and begin helping her pick up sea shells.  Before long, hundreds of people are picking up thousands of shells.

So no, you can’t change the culture of your company all by yourself.  But you can change the culture within your sphere of influence.  Focus on one shell at a time.  Be the leader you wish others to be.  Influence the culture the way you’d like to see it changed.  It’s important for leaders to set an example.  Your actions will motivate others to emulate you; they’ll want to follow your lead and help you pick up seashells.  Don’t be intimidated by the huge unattainable goal of changing the world.  Just change your corner of it – before long, your corner will be bigger than you could have imagined.  There is a lot of power in the example you set for others.

What other lessons can be learned from the beach?  How do you deal with the sometimes overwhelming task of being a leader?  Do you approach it one step at a time, ask others for help, or even seek guidance from established models?


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