You learn about leadership in interesting places and often when you least expect it. I’m in Florida this week fishing on Lake Okeechobee with my son. Before some of you yell at me for working during vacation when I should be in time out per my last post, realize he’s taking a nap after a long morning of fishing and I’m relaxing by writing. Remember – writing isn’t work for me. It’s one of many ways I relax.
Even though we’ve been relaxing and having a great time, I had some leadership lessons reinforced for me by my 14 year old son. If you pay attention in life, you can learn something new every day just like I encourage you to do in this post. He has taught me a few leadership lessons of my own without even realizing he was doing so.
We’ve been having a great trip so far. The first day we caught well over 60 bass and probably about 150 fish in the 2.5 days we’ve been here. He caught the largest of the day that first day – an 8lb 6oz monster (yes, that’s it in the picture). He also picked up about ten fish between 5 and 7 pounds. I caught a few good ones in that range too but he’s definitely outfishing me. It has been a fantastic trip.
On our second evening out, he decided he was going to teach me four things about leadership:
Leaders are Selfless
For the first day and a half, he was catching much larger fish than I was. The numbers were even but the size differential was pretty noticeable. On our second evening out, he was again soundly trouncing my catches. We went a little while longer and the bite in my spot dried up but he was still catching some in his little spot. I didn’t say a word about it. I just patiently sat there fishing my hole and taking the occasional picture of him landing a fish.
After a while, he noticed the lack of activity on my end. As he hooked another very solid fish, without missing a beat he turned to me and went to hand me his fishing pole. “Here Dad. You land him.” Wow. Giving up something of great value to take care of a teammate. I of course declined and told him to land his fish which ended up being a four pounder.
When is the last time you gave up something valuable to you (like a moment in the spotlight) and gave it to a team member? Try it. The feeling they’ll feel is fantastic.
Leaders Aren’t Shy
We’re fishing with a guide who has 20 years of experience on this lake. As the guide and I were discussing what I might do differently to pick up a better bite, my son noticed we didn’t really know what we were talking about.
“No. You need to cast to the left side of those weeds, not the right like you guys are saying. They’re in that spot, not the one you’re looking at.”
Our guide and I looked at him and just blinked. A kid telling a veteran how to do something? Guess what? He was right. 3 pounder on the next cast. My son clearly adhered to a philosophy of “the best idea wins.” He saw no titles or roles – only knowledge and experience. He knew it was in the best interest of the team to share what he knew and he wasn’t shy about doing so.
When is the last time you listened to the newbie’s ideas without dismissing them outright because they “don’t have the experience?” When is the last time you offered your idea during a meeting with your senior team? Remember – the best idea usually wins.
Leaders Let Actions Talk
I’m still agape over that 8lb 6oz lunker he caught. The funny thing is I’ve talked about it more than he has. Actually, he hasn’t proactively mentioned that fish or any of the other huge lunkers he has landed. He’s spent all his airtime talking about funny small fish, his bait and the way they swim into the weeds, the seagulls, and his favorite movies.
Even though he hasn’t said it once, all of us know he has had a lights-out fishing trip so far. He has absolutely crushed it yet he has no need to call out his accomplishments. He simply sets the hook, lands the fish, poses for the photo (at my demand, not his) and lets his catch go. He’s letting his actions speak which makes him a lot more fun to be around than if he was repeatedly telling us how awesome his skills are.
When is the last time you did something great and didn’t mention it at all?
Leaders Know When to Change What They’re Doing and When to Stay the Course
On our second evening, the bite tapered off a bit. He continued fishing his pattern for 20 long, boring minutes (it had been fast and furious up to that point). In the 21st minute, things picked right back up. Someone less patient would have started changing things halfway through that lull and would have missed the resurgent bite.
Later on that evening, the bite stopped quite suddenly. He gave it about five minutes then changed where he was fishing and how he was setting the hook (he gave the fish a little more time to chew on the bait). He started boating good fish almost immediately.
He wasn’t afraid to change but he didn’t give up too easily either. Luck? Maybe. Either way the lesson is pretty clear. If you’re going to change course, understand why you’re doing it and question if you should be a little more patient before changing. Those decisions matter.
Leaders Let Others Shine
As I’ve watched my son kick my butt cast for cast, I realized I’ve never had so much fun on the water. He has been amazing the entire trip and I’ve had a great time watching him succeed. Sure, this trip is my birthday gift. Some people might be frustrated to be so outfished by a kid especially on their birthday. Me? I’m thrilled to watch him shine.
We’ve even had some fun with it (which you can see in the photo). Being with him these past few days has reinforced this lesson for me – let members of your team succeed and shine. They will amaze you with what they’re capable of. You’ll also get a great deal of satisfaction from it. I mean, someone taught this kid how to fish and be great at it. Oh. That was probably me. I’m getting to see my investment of time and teaching pay off in spades (or in bass in this case) and man is it satisfying.
Overall it has been an amazing trip so far. We’re heading back out in a couple of hours. Hopefully next week I’ll get to put up some photos of me with a fish or two. And even if I don’t, I’ve had a great time and learned a thing or two along the way.