Row, Row, Row Your Boat

Have you ever wondered how two companies – who do the same thing in the same industry – weather tough times so differently? Why does one survive an economic downturn, while another simply crumbles? They share the same types of customers. They have the same competitors. They hire from the same job pool. They’re in the same boat!

But in that one boat, different kinds of leaders emerge. What interests me is how each leader deals with their responsibilities and how each leader projects a different kind of attitude. As I see it, there are three types of leaders in the boat:

  1. The leader who just sits there and does nothing. They think that just “waiting it out” is their best choice, so they sit and wait while the boat drifts.
  2. The leader who picks up an oar and rows with resentment. They are bitter that they have to row. Their heart isn’t in it, and they whine and complain about rowing. They seem to be going through the motions, so they can say, “I rowed, but nothing happened.”
  3. The leader who picks up an oar and rows with all their heart! Not only are they rowing, but they seem to have fun doing it. They are positive about what their efforts will bring, and they even have a rowing plan of action and a direction of where their rowing will take them. Most importantly, they inspire and motivate others in the boat to start rowing with them!

So which leader are you? The only difference between each of these leaders is the attitude they choose to have during difficult times. Let’s face it; it’s easy to be a good leader when things are going well. It’s during the difficult times that true leaders separate themselves from the pack. Now more than ever we need strong leadership in every organization. What a wonderful opportunity and challenge we have before us to stand and lead when it’s needed the most – in our businesses, communities, and industries.

Something that motivated me when I was a business owner is something that I still talk about today. I call it Our Story. Everyone has a story. What is motivating is that everyone has the opportunity to make their story something they can be proud of. As the economy slowly begins to improve, think about what kind of leadership story you can tell about how you and your team weathered the “Great Recession.” What kind of leader were you in your boat?

The New Year is fast approaching, and with it comes a sense of renewal. If you weren’t the leader you should have been in the most recent challenging times, it’s not too late to be the leader your organization needs you to be. Pick up your oar, and inspire your team to do the same. Make your attitude and your leadership a choice that you will be proud to share as you or someone else tells your story.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


  • This post was great! It really reminded me of why, we do what we do, for the organization we apart of on a daily basis. We spend countless hours trying to set ourselves apart from the competition. When in reality we are, all in the same boat 🙂 I couldn’t agree any more than you, the way to set ourselves apart is by being a strong leader regardless of position. It is all about how you lead your team to success and how each team member has the ability to lead the organization to success in their own way. It all boils down to a few things; passion, effort, being a 360 leader, motivation, and attitude. I am fortune enough to have strong leaders who also lead with the philosophy of John Maxwell’s “360 degree leader” and Linda Sasser’s “Our Story” theory. So this was a nice reminder for the end of the year, to let us take a moment and ask ourselves. “What kind of leader am I? It makes us appreciate the leaders we have and aspire to be as well as becoming. Thank you! I loved it!!

  • Anonymous says:

    My leader has chosen to do nothing…..this is a horrible choice because everyone in our department is looking for leadership in these tough times. Morale is WAY down, attitudes stink and until he picks up the oar, we will be drowning! Even if we all had oars and paddle as hard as we can, we would go in a cirlce because we have no direction.

    • Linda Sasser says:

      Well, you’ve heard it said by John Maxwell, everything rises and falls on leadership. This may be an example of that. Hate to hear your morale situation. I know it’s not a fun season to go through, but it is a season and this too shall pass. Here are a few things that may help you.
      1. Take note… write down and journal what you don’t like. Whether you realize it or not you are learning about what not to do when you lead.
      2. While you don’t feel like you can oar due to not knowing the direction, you can make a difference with morale. Start a lunch discussion group. Pick a book (check out suggestions on my reading with sass link) read 1-2 chapters a week and learn. Just learning about leadership will help your team.
      3. Maybe the leader doesn’t know what to do. Go to him and ask how you can help improve conditions. Don’t underestimate the power of leading and caring “up.” Maybe he just needs some motivation and courage and isn’t getting that from his supervisor. My team always gives me courage to be strong. But I allow them to play into my leadership. You may want to walk carefully in that direction to test it out.

      Thanks so much for sharing and good luck!