A couple months ago we took one of my good friends sailing the day before his wedding. With none of us possessing any knowledge of the water sport, our original intention was to take a lesson and then spend some time on our own sailing in beautiful Mission Bay, San Diego.
Then we met Drew. Drew worked for the rental company and assured us that taking a lesson would be a waste of our money and that he could teach us the basics through a short conversation. Not knowing otherwise, we agreed. We excitedly dawned our life jackets and piled into the small 16’ vessel.
Then Drew hurriedly explained:
“That’s the rudder,” as he pointed to something at the end of the boat, “And you can guide the ship with it. This post at the bottom of the sail is the boom; watch out for it if the wind shifts. Pull these ropes to direct the sail and you are all set.” With that, he pushed us away from the dock and went to help other customers.
Not a one of us could hide the surprised looks on our faces. With out any real knowledge or training, we had been shoved out of the nest. It was time to sink or swim (almost literally!).
While we picked up sailing WITH the wind fairly quickly, heading back (which we later learned is done by a process called “tacking”) was completely different. I eventually flagged down another boater who graciously towed us in.
When I tell this story to people who sail they look horrified. “He did what?” they ask. Clearly sending someone off on their own without knowledge and direction is not wise.
Developing leaders is not about shoving people out of the nest who lack the knowledge and experience necessary to succeed.
Developing leaders is about:
Assessing the competency and commitment of your individual team members.
Providing a high level of direction when competency is low, but commitment is high.
Providing a high level of accountability when commitment is low, but competency is high.
Providing both when both are low.
To read more about this, check out Ken Blanchard’s excellent book entitled Leading at a Higher Level.
Why is it important not to thrust people into flying solo until they are ready? What are some of the dangers of this leadership method?