Recently my wife and I took a cruise to celebrate our wedding anniversary. While in Cozumel, I stood on the aft deck waiting for clearance to go ashore. As I waited I saw a submarine crossing the harbor. After several minutes I noticed a tugboat several hundred feet in front of the submersible ship. A minute or so later I looked again and it seemed the submarine was following the exact line of travel as the tugboat. After another minute or so, I looked a third time and noticed the distance between the two vessels seemed not to have changed. So, as I looked closer, I detected a small cable from the rear of the tugboat and it was attached to the front of the sub. No wonder the sub was not gaining distance on the tug; the tugboat was towing the submarine!
So what do a tugboat and a submarine have to do with leadership? The answer is that sometimes you might be surprised at who is needed to do the leading. We all have pre-formed ideas about who or what a leader should do and how it should be done. We have pre-formed ideas about how a leader should look, speak and dress. But the bottom line is that the leader must be able to get the job done; no matter what the job may be.
Sometimes leadership takes the form of a submarine. Other times it takes the form and power of a tugboat. When identifying and developing potential leaders in your organization, don’t look only for submarines. Do not erase from your “potential leaders” list those who appear to be tugboats. You just might be surprised as to who is able to do the leading!