How to Own Your Wake
Leaders struggle to see themselves through the eyes of others.
You enhance your impact on others AFTER you acknowledge your impact ON others.
Own your wake:
Like a boat, you leave a wake everywhere you go. Sometimes your wake harms. Sometimes it energizes.
I can’t tell you how many times I said, “I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings,” to my wife. Let me translate that. “You shouldn’t be hurt because I didn’t mean to hurt you.”
My favorite expression was, “I have no animosity in my heart.”
Almost anything is better than saying, “I didn’t mean to hurt you.” Of course you don’t intentionally harm others.
The difference between intent and impact is hard to see and even harder to own.
If you deliberately bring pain on others – without noble ends – get out of leadership.
Intention is important.
Impact is reality.
Leaders deal with reality.
It takes courage to own your wake.
Weak leaders see life only through their own eyes. Influential leaders take the perspective of others.
When you own your wake you say things like:
- I can see you’re upset. (You strengthen others when you see and acknowledge them.)
- I’ve caused unnecessary turbulence on our team.
- I apologize.
- How can we move forward more effectively next time?
- I think I got in the way.
Self-centered leaders worry about themselves and say, “What’s wrong with them?”
Successful leaders acknowledge others and say, “How can I take responsibility for my wake?”
Create a positive wake:
You’re not a leader if you show up, put your head down, and do your work in isolation.
Connection strengthens influence.
Five sentences that strengthen connection today:
- I’m thankful for … .
- What’s working for you?
- What are you doing that makes you proud?
- How can I help you win today?
- I’m counting on you to … .
How might leaders own their wake?
How might leaders create a positive wake?
This may be your best writing ever!
Wow, that’s a bold statement, but I definitely agree this is one of the best yet!
Great post Dan!
Thanks so much Devin.
Thanks Andrew. Much appreciated.
THIS! This is a great read today. Thanks for sharing your insight. I need to work harder to own my wake and take on the perspective of others!
Best wishes for the journey, John.
Wakes, like waves, are impersonal …
The size of a wake created is relative to the size of the waves in the immediate area, and the size & speed of the vessel creating the wake …
The bigger vessel always has the right of way (more momentum= slower to adjust its course and slower to stop)… smaller vessels necessarily/inherently need to be more vigilant and ready to adjust …
The deeper the draft, the greater the speed and the calmer the waters, the bigger the adjacent wake, and the farther reaching its impact …
“Owning” the wake you create means being mindful of these factors, so …
The larger the sphere of influence, the slower you have to be, or someone WILL get hurt, whether “intended” or not.
On the other hand, if you want to attract and play with the dolphins (who love to frolic in a good wake), enjoy.
Just make sure it’s not a manattee habitat.
Love the imagery in your comment, Rurbane.
The connection between speed and size is accurate, but troubling. Perhaps one of the bigger challenges of leadership is knowing when moving quickly is an advantage. But, as you indicate, sometimes moving quickly creates more problems than it solves.
Think about it this way then, Dan:
The more authority/trust (the bigger the vessel) one has garnered, the wider and greater the responsibility (for the wake).
Leadership involves anticipating negative potentials (situations) such that it can communicate clearly what is expected to happen if certain conditions develop (Think “headwinds” “crosscurrents” etc. that leaders love to attribute “turbulence” to) AHEAD OF TIME, so that smaller vessels who are “following” in its wake (because its the path of least resistance and least fuel expended) aren’t swamped and/or capsized in the “new norm” wake.
Think of what could go wrong. I find the avoiding negative impact the least enjoyable aspect of leading. Glad you’re bringing it up.
This takes humility.
Thanks Pete. Perhaps that’s one reason we avoid owning our wake.
I like the ship’s wake analogy. To be honest, most of the time, you can adjust to a wake It gets bumpy, but you don’t capsize or sink. It’s when the “leader” has an effect less like a ship’s wake and more like a bowling ball, you have trouble: it either scatters everything it its path or misses completely. Ask how I know…
Thanks Mitch. The bowling ball image is awesome. I can see everyone scattering. 🙂
I agree, possibly one of the best posts ever, and the potential for the greatest impact if people would only grasp it. We are all Agents of Influence but realizing that is often hard. Putting it into practice takes not only humility, but courage. Thanks, Dan.
Thanks Jim. Love the expression “agents of influence.”
Real eye opener today. Many good comments, humility for sure, I’m working on the courage part that Jim, brings up, easy to sit back and make no waves, probably better to make the wave to fix the problem.