Choosing Who NOT to Help

I thought leading was getting people on my team. But, leading is getting on their team; grabbing their oar. But whose boat and whose oar?

Whose boat:

Leaders can’t help those going in the “wrong” direction. By wrong, I don’t mean morally wrong. I mean wrong for the organization. Get out of boats going in the “wrong” direction or you’ll dilute your leadership and the effectiveness of your organization.

Focus your energies on boats
going in the “right” direction.

Every organization has people rowing in the wrong direction. Don’t ignore them. Work to align them. But:

Never neglect those rowing in the right direction
for those rowing in the wrong.

Harder than you think:

You work with anchors, critics, nay-sayers, detractors, or those with personal agendas. Ignoring them is challenging, perhaps perilous, especially if they have connections with top leadership. Stay connected. Jump in their boat and talk but don’t grab their oar.


Choosing and clarifying organizational direction identifies the “right” boats and whose oar to grab. Effective leaders:

  1. Clarify direction.
  2. Align the boats within the organization.
  3. Get on teams most aligned with organizational direction.
  4. Hamper or eliminate teams who refuse to align.

Think of your organization as a collection of row boats. Your job is getting them rowing in the same direction.

Ask the people in your organization, “Where are we going?” If they can’t identify the destination, they’ll never get there.

You can’t talk about direction too much.


Grabbing an oar in someone else’s boat isn’t a dishonest ploy to trick them into getting on your team. Getting on their team fails if it’s not honest.


Leaders always grab oars in other people’s boats. Leadership always centers on others. There never comes a time when leadership centers you. Even when you take care of yourself, do it so you can take care of others.

Do the people around you believe you are on their team?

How do you determine whose oar to grab?