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  • Writer's pictureBurk Moreland

Shark Leadership

Imagine you are standing on a dock, ready to go for a swim, when you notice two very large grey creatures swimming near you, their large dorsal fins occasionally breaking the surface of the saltwater just below your feet.

What if I told you they have very sharp teeth, voracious appetites, and can swim at speeds upwards of 30 miles per hour? Do you dive right in?

My children did just that – and I even paid for it! They had the experience of a lifetime swimming in the water with the two animals I just described, who happened to be dolphins named Pandora and Caloosa.

Okay, so even though they weren’t sharks, these are not your typical domesticated house pets. They are 400-pound mammals with razor sharp teeth that could drag you 20 feet under the water in moments. Watching my kids get in the water with them was a bit disconcerting. (Of course, they were fine with it, even giddy at the opportunity.) And as I watched my daughters play with the dolphins, learn to give them commands, and even hold on to their dorsal fins for a trip around the lagoon, I was amazed at the astronomical amount of trust we were able to place in the trainers, as well as the dolphins themselves.

After spending a little time mulling this in my mind, I have decided it is all about leadership.

Jen, our trainer and the leader for the experience, showed absolutely no apprehension at getting near Pandora and Caloosa. She treated them as if they were her children. She nuzzled them and caressed them and the dolphins squealed and clicked with joy. They followed her around as she walked on the dock and waited with great anticipation as she stepped onto the platform at the water’s edge. As my family entered the water, she instructed the dolphins to go and introduce themselves very slowly and one at a time. They followed the commands perfectly and the look of sheer joy on my children’s faces was worth every penny we paid to have this experience.

I firmly believe that if we were walking down the dock alone with no one to show us the way, we would not be jumping in that water — even if a sign said it was okay or we watched others who we did not know do it. The only reason it was the wonderful experience it turned into was Jen’s leadership.

So what do your actions and attitude say about where you and your company are headed? As you talk to your employees, partners, vendors and customers, do you exhibit confidence in where you are headed or do you show concern. People need to believe they are part of something and want to follow someone who seems to know what is going on. In fact, they don’t always know for sure, but just the perception that they do know can push everyone over the edge to make things roll down hill vs. sitting in neutral.

Do you carry yourself with confidence? Do you show the passion for what you want to accomplish? Do you believe in yourself enough to help everyone else believe in you as well?

If the answer to any of these is no, an adjustment is going to happen. Either you can initiate it or it will be initiated for you, but it is going to happen. My preference is always to make things happen. At least I am in some control then and not a victim.

I invest a good amount of time working on this topic with my clients. We discuss where they want to go and why. If the why is strong enough, and the conviction and passion are there, we just have to figure out ways to express it effectively. One of my favorite John Maxwell sayings is: A great leader never reaches the finish line alone. Every day your team stares at a giant ocean of Unknown with fins circling them. It is up to you to convince them that those fins are really just dolphins that want to play with them. In order to really grow and move forward, we are all going to have to take a few chances. Jump in the water… show them its ok.

And if you are ever in the Florida Keys, visit the Dolphin Research Center in Grassy Key and tell Jen, Pandora and Caloosa hi from the Morelands. The center does amazing and important work, they truly love those animals, you will have the experience of a lifetime and if you are like me, you might just learn something about leadership.

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