The Most Important Thing I Ever Learned About Leadership, I learned When I Was 10

I can’t think of a better story to start off the Leadership category for Zoomstart than this.

Most people will agree; there’s a certain amount of leadership that you’re born with, and a certain amount you learn.

Of the part you learn, a very important part is learned when you’re young. These are the lessons that become very formative to your character. They become a part of you more than the lessons that you learn later on do.

I’ve had the good fortune to work with some really great business people with amazing leadership skills. They’ve taught me a lot. But by far, the most important thing about leadership I ever learned, I learned from my Grandfather when I was 10.

What Happened

When I was about 10 years old, my grandparents took me on a little fishing trip up to a small lake in the hills around the Okanagan Valley. We rented a rowboat. My Grandfather didn’t get to fish because he had to row. So my Grandmother and I were trolling off the back of the boat as we circled around the small lake.

It was a beautiful day for the first hour and a half. And then, as we were out at the far end of the lake, the clouds rolled in and the wind came up suddenly. In fifteen minutes we went from calm blue skies to rain, wind and waves.

The waves were knocking our little rowboat all over the place and we were far from any place we could get ashore. I was worried. My Grandmother was worried. My Grandfather was rather calm and in good spirits. He’d say things like “The fish love weather like this“.

At one point it got so bad that the waves were coming into the boat and were pushing us sideways into the dead logs that floated all along the side of the lake. My Grandfather was still calm. He’d say “This isn’t too bad. Seen a lot worse weather than this“. and “We might as well call it a day“. He had been rowing towards the beach this whole time.

Every time we started to get really worried he calmly reassured us that everything was going to be fine. He was so calm, you just had to believe it was true.

The Lesson

Several months later at a big family gathering, my Grandfather was telling the story about our little adventure on the lake that day. I stopped cold when he said “I was more than a little worried out there“.

He was worried. He never showed it.

That’s how I learned that when the fit hits the shan, the person that stays calm and cool is the leader.

To this day, when I face a truly sudden, unexpected and bad situation, it barely gets a reaction out of me. I just figure out what I need to do and do it.

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