One of my early memories of being in a boat was my fascination with the wake. Regardless of the rockiness on the open water, the water behind the boat enjoyed a turbulent-free existence, at least for a little while. The track of waves in the boat’s wake created an endless opportunity for excitement to the thrill-seekers who were tubing or skiing behind us. Then there were those people into whom the wake eventually flowed. They would just as soon we had never come around. For them, our wake was a source of frustration.
You may never have thought about it in these terms, but your leadership leaves a wake. How you lead creates an environment for the people around you with one of three effects.
CALMING EFFECT: For some, your leadership calms their troubled waters. Behind your leadership, they feel safe. When they know you are in charge, their confidence grows. They may not be the kind of people you place on the front lines, but their willingness to follow and contribute in behind-the-scenes kinds of ways is an investment every leader appreciates.
EXCITING EFFECT: For others, your leadership creates opportunities for excitement and risk taking. These people love to ride, jump, or turn flips on the wake you are creating. As long as they see you moving forward, they are thrilled to be part of the experience. They may even encourage you to speed up. And maybe they’re right.
FRUSTRATING EFFECT: But for some, your leadership creates turbulence and upsets them. As the waves of your leadership wake reach these people, their boat is rocked. Now, you could slow down and minimize the wake. Perhaps you should, especially if it’s more important WHO arrives with you than WHEN you arrive. Of course, you could change direction and eliminate your wake’s impact on them. That’s not likely to be an option if you’re confident that the direction you’re leading is the right way to go. In this situation, you have to live with the fallout of your leadership and press on.
If you lead, you’re going to make a wake. Knowing this will help you think ahead about those you’ll impact with your leadership and how you will deal with or leverage the power of your wake. Bon voyage!
SPEAK YOUR MIND: What part of the wake do you prefer to experience?