What Kind of Wake do You Create?

When the executive came into the room, all the dynamics changed. People acted differently. It became unusually quiet. The executive seemed to be used to this because he immediately started talking, or barking…yes, it was definitely barking. He didn’t ask any questions and he didn’t ask for any input. There seemed to be a fear in the room. My observation, this is no way to lead.

If you have done any boating you surely recognize the “No Wake Zone” sign. It is always positioned near where others park their boats. It’s intention is slow down boaters leaving or arriving in the marina to keep the wake their moving boat creates to a minimum so as not to damage the boats parked at the docks. I wish I had had one with me that day in the conference room. Before the executive arrived in the room there were many “boats” parked at the docks and they were having a pretty productive conversation. After he left all the “boats” were damaged in some form or another.

There is a place for wake, and there is a place where it can be damaging. What kind of wake do you leave?

Just so the metaphor doesn’t get too far out of control, I want to be clear about what I mean here. I find many leaders, especially the ones higher in an organization, can lose self-awareness. They become accustom to people around them deferring to them and yielding to their every thought or whim. They enjoy being perceived as the smartest person in the room. Here’s a tip for you: If you find yourself to be the smartest person in the room, it’s time to find a new room.

High Impact Leaders

If you want to be a high impact leader in your organization I would recommend the following:

Recognize that all of us is smarter than one of us – Ask questions and listen to answers. You don’t have to do what others say, but you should listen to what they have to say if they are on your team. That’s how you generate buy-in.

Be bigger on the inside than you are on the outside – I heard Dr. John C. Maxwell say that and it means that leadership is about your influence and not your title. Bigger on the outside leaders use their title as a weapon. Bigger on the inside leaders use their influence to generate highly engaged, high performance followers.

Expect every person on your team to have a point of view about the business, or the school, or the community group. If everyone thinks the same things you do then one of you isn’t necessary. Teach people to think and expect them to share.

Are there times when you need to speak in direct terms to your team? Absolutely! But it is probably less often than you think. Increase your influence by drawing others into the conversation. Ask questions that require others to think. Listen is a way that shows that you value those you have placed on your team. Be mindful of the wake you create and what damage it might be doing to your organization.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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