Developing Leaders – Tom Yeakley

Taking the Mystery out of Leadership

The Leadership Wake

Henry Cloud has described what he calls the ‘leadership wake’ that all leaders leave behind them as they exercise their leadership. Just as a boat moving through the water leaves a wake (trace) behind it of two waves, so too leaders leave behind them the impact of their influence.

On one side of the leadership wake we have the ‘wave’ of mission or task. It is the reason we have a need for leaders – a mission or a task needs to be done. A leader is identified to help set a direction forward, align resources, cast vision, and manage the work of people in order to accomplish the mission.

A good leader when looking behind them at one side of their personal leadership wake would hope to see mission after mission, task after task, accomplished, completed, and finished for the glory of God. It is often the reputation of being a leader who gets things done that draws the attention of other leaders and encourages them to give you more responsibilities. The reward for good leadership is more responsibility!

But there is a second wave on the other side of the ‘leadership boat’ that is equally important for Kingdom leaders. That side of the wake is people. We want to see people thriving under our leadership influence, not surviving their time with us. Too often we see mission accomplished on one side and forget to look at the other side of the wake. Do we see people thriving or struggling? Are we creating a healthy and attractive environment where people are operating in their strengths and growing in their contributions?

The good Kingdom leader is looking at both sides of their personal leadership wake. They are taking note of whether the job given is accomplished and accomplished well. They are also noting whether people are thriving under their leadership. 360 reviews can be very revealing when direct reports are given opportunity to evaluate their leaders.

Much of Kingdom leadership is leading volunteers. And because this is mostly a volunteer army they have a vote on whether or not to serve under our leadership. Good leaders have volunteers who continue to ‘re up’ with them to serve again and again. Volunteers can ‘vote with their feet’ and leave if we are not leaving behind us a leadership wake that is healthy and attractive.

Have you looked behind you recently? Are you looking at both sides of the boat?

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2 thoughts on “The Leadership Wake

  1. Michael on said:

    Great view of leadership and both sides of the coin. It is a great metaphor. I know leaders that focus too much on task and some who focus too much on people. I would venture to say some situations call leaders to focus more on one side of the wake versus the other, but in the long run there should a balance. It is a delicate balance and one that takes wisdom. Good article. Thanks

    • HI Michael, Yes, this is a dynamic tension that leaders must live with – accomplish the task/mission and care well for those we lead. Context and situation may dictate an emphasis on one more than the other for a period of time. But both must be addressed by our leadership.
      tom

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