Leadership is a lot like paddling in a canoe. Let’s say you and two other people are in a canoe. The goal is to cross a river. Let’s say you are in the rear and the other two are seated in front of you. Even if you are the only one paddling, you can propel everyone in the canoe on your own. If all three of you paddle, together in rhythm, all three of you can propel faster. If everyone paddles together, you can also exert less energy and still go faster, farther, with less work from each person individually. This is the concept of teamwork. But how is this related to leadership?
Let’s say, you are paddling hard in the canoe and the other two are not paddling but even worse, they are sticking the legs and hands out of the canoe and into the river. Their placing their limbs in the water is now causing drag. All three bodies have the potential to go faster. If two are not paddling or worse, causing resistance, everyone slows down.
You ask each person to paddle. One tells you they are tired. The other says they will paddle later. You then ask them to at least pull their hands and feet out of the water and place them back inside of the canoe to prevent unnecessary resistance. They both tell you it’s hot and they prefer to keep themselves cool by sticking their hands and feet in the water. They are not focused on the advancement of the team. They are selfish focusing only on what is easier for them personally.
You now have a conundrum. Keep both in the canoe maintaining the potential for more efficiency. Or do you make the tough leadership decision, and, KICK THEM OUT OF THE CANOE! You can move faster, yes, even moving by yourself, than you can with those you are carrying who are not putting forth their effort.
Give others the opportunity to paddle for the team. Be clear about the goal. If others step up, they deserve to stay dry. If they fail to do their part, make the tough decision and do what is best long term, and kick them out of your canoe!
Vincent Ivan Phipps, M.A., CSP (Certified Speaking Professional) is the owner and CEO (Chief Energy Officer) of Communication VIP Training and Coaching.