Years ago I went swimming in the ocean off the East Coast of Australia just outside of the small town of Maroochydore. It was the first week in my time being there. A group of us went to the beach to swim on a Sunday late afternoon. I borrowed someone’s surfboard and paddled out only to get stuck in a rip tide created by the Maroochydore river that was pouring into the ocean. The current began to take me out further and further. Without the knowledge of the place and the strength to swim, I was in trouble. I tried to paddle as hard as I could, quickly tired, and began to feel the panic rising inside me as the sun started setting on the beach.
The next sight was someone coming over the waves riding his jet ski. He drove up to me and yelled, “do you need help?” And I was so close to actually responding, “no, I’m good” (even though just moments before I was on the verge of a full scale panic attack) It’s funny how ego can literally keep us from the very answers we were needing and wanting; however, because the package in which the answer comes is offensive to our pride we risk turning down the very thing we asked for.
Thankfully, I said yes I definitely needed help. I climbed aboard the jet ski and took the ride all the way back to shore to make it home for dinner. The guy who saved me was an off-duty lifeguard. He told me he saw me struggling to swim back in and knew I was caught in the current.
Anyone can follow the systems of feedback that are in place in our organizations, families, or friendships. However, that’s just management. A leader doesn’t wait for the system to make them respond. A leader is looking for those around her that need help… she’s never off-duty because she’s a leader. On paper she might be a manager at Company X or a wife or a friend. However, she’s beyond that: she’s a leader. She’s aware of those around her and not waiting to be told what to do, but living as a life-saver who is always on duty.