There’s a little story that David Gill shared with me last year and I had to share it wider. David is a passionate people leader and he shared that he recently had an opportunity to go out on a tug boat in Wellington harbour and guide a ship into port. This is something that he has always wanted to do and he absolutely loved it. He then went on to draw an analogy to leadership that is so relevant for today’s environment.
In the past, tug boats literally had drag and steer the larger ship into port; it did most of the work. However, today the tug boat doesn’t drag the ship at all. It simply gives the ship a nudge here and there to keep it on course. The ship uses its own engines to propel it forward.
I imagine you have already figured out the analogy! In the past, leaders were responsible for dragging their team across the line. If you’ve ever been in an environment were the leader carries the weight of the responsibility (and stress) and drags her team along for the ride, you’ll know how demotivating it can be. This type of approach to leadership sucks the enthusiasm out of people. There is no room to grow, to be innovative, or to thrive.
The great thing about the little tug boat in this story is that the ship (the team) still has to do most of the work. The role of the tug boat is to ensure the ship stays on track with a little nudge here and a little nudge there. This is similar to the leader who sets the direction and standards for her team to work towards and then, if they go off track, they are coached or guided back on course. This type of environment allows people to work hard, make mistakes safely, grow, and thrive.
As a leader, your role is to let go a little, trust in your team, and provide the support and opportunities for your people to do the best work of their lives.
If you’d like to get a better idea of how to create an environment in which your people can thrive, check out this article, or feel free to give me a call at any time.