Recently our family visited the beach for Spring Break. The evenings were filled with All-You-Can-Eat Seafood Buffets, lazer tag, go-kart racing and Aloe Vera. The days were filled with walks on the beach, swimming in the pool, sand castles and riding waves in the ocean.
As I watched my three boys riding waves it was quickly obvious that what could be a leisurely activity was turning into the Wave Riding World Championship. They walked, waded, and maneuvered their way out to deeper waters and then waited…
It was at this point that I realized they were demonstrating something in the ocean that I needed in my leadership.
Not every wave is worth riding. Learning which waves to ride is what makes you successful.
There are literally millions of books, podcasts, magazines, and blog posts to inspire you, teach you and challenge you. The problem comes when you try to implement every (or a lot of) idea(s) you come across.
I once knew a youth pastor who literally changed what he preached (and really what he thought he believed about God) based on the latest book he was reading.
I see leaders who change their mission, vision, strategy, hiring process, staffing structure, and more after every conference they attend.
I know people who move the furniture or hang a new picture in a room in their house after every episode of “Fixer Upper”.
There are several problems for people like this:
1- They don’t truly know who they are or what they like/believe.
Remember the movie “Runaway Bride”? To really find herself she needed to know how she liked her eggs, and not just how the man she was with at the time liked his eggs.
When you are secure in who you are, you aren’t as easily swayed by the latest fad or most recent podcast you listened to. That doesn’t mean you don’t implement new ideas, but you do so after evaluating the information and filtering it for your context.
2- They don’t make me want to follow their lead.
The only thing worse than a lack of leadership is schizophrenic leadership. If I can’t be sure that who we are when I show up to work today is at least similar to who we were when I left work yesterday, I’m not sure I can stay here.
Some leaders think they are inspiring followers by being open to change, when really they are creating an uneasiness that eventually becomes unsettling.
So how do you decide which waves are worth riding?
Be patient. Recognize that there will be far more waves you don’t ride than those that you do ride. Activity is not success. Effectiveness is success.
Go for it. Just because you can’t ride every waves doesn’t mean you can’t ride some. When you see a wave that you think will carry you where you want to go, start kicking!
I loved watching my boys run to where I was sitting after riding a wave all the way up onto the beach. The excitement was written on their faces.
I want more days like that in leadership. I think it means I just have to let some good waves go by while waiting for the best ones.