It is a new year with all its challenges and opportunities. All of us are bound to have a rich variety of positive as well as negative experiences. Our attitudes are the single most important leadership X Factor that will determine our happiness and success in the year to come.
During the month of December I came within a breath of being drowned in the beautiful Sodwana Bay of KwaZulu Natal. It was a close call. This experience was traumatic yet in hindsight it is probably one of the most important and valuable experiences I had during an eventful 2012. Let me tell you why. My wife Rina was sitting on the beach and our extended family were snorkeling in the clear Sodwana Bay low tide waves. I decided to explore the water along the coral reef. It was low tide and I was looking for deeper water so that I could do some bathing in the sea while the others were busy looking at the rich sea life under the water. I moved some distance away from the rest of the family. I suddenly realised that I was in some trouble because of my inability to rely on my footing in the water. The area I was wading in varied in depth from knee to face height, depending on the rocks below the surface. The trouble was that I kept on slipping on the ragged rock edges and floundering in the water. Normally the depth of the water would not cause a problem but if you keep on slipping on the treacherous rocks you can easily drown. The waves were not large but they kept on coming (as waves do) and pushing me onto the treacherous rocks. There were no people around to shout to for help. Hundreds of swimmers and beach sitters were a few hundred yards away over the rise. I was alone. As I realised that I was in trouble and rapidly getting very tired, I prayed, just appealing for help. I felt some assurance although I was keenly aware that I could drown within a moment.
I gradually worked my way to the beach over the tricky and jutting rocks until I could rest for a moment sitting in the shallow water. I was safe! I stood up when I had received enough energy and walked back along the beach to my family. My one grandson spotted me and then noticed that I was bleeding from small cuts on my body. I was unaware of the bruises and only too happy to have survived.
The above photo was taken the next day and the sea looks innocent enough but my experience proves that we must be careful at all times of what is NOT seen with the physical eye. This experience proves how vital a sound footing is in all situations; physically, emotionally, organisationally and spiritually.
We learn to value all our experiences over the years. It is one of the integral elements of good leadership – to learn from our own as well as the experiences of others. Sometimes we have to feel some pain in order to absorb and take ownership of some of life’s lessons. I grew up on the South Coast of KwaZulu Natal many years ago. We spent hundreds of hours swimming and body surfing in the rough Indian Ocean waves. In those days the beaches were pretty much bare of people and I personally almost drowned several times. I am by nature a reasonable careful person, even as a youth, yet the sea is dangerous by nature and it is possible to drown within seconds if we are not very wary of hidden dangers and fail to follow basic common sense rules diligently. We often spotted sharks in waters that did not have safety nets at the time. As a young boy I felt the brush of a sandpaper skin against my body under the water. I learnt later on that this was most probably an investigating shark. Why then you may ask, did I allow myself to enter a dangerous area of the beach. With my background and experiences as a youth I should have known better! What fooled me was the innocently appearing nature of that part of the bay. The danger was in the submerged jutting rocks that I could not see and I did not know about.
All of us are entering a new year that is bound to be full of dangers of some kind or other. We live in a dangerous society in the midst of many exciting opportunities. Be careful of those submerged rocks. Be careful of the dangers of debt and emotional decisions that may sweep us into dangerous waters in a blink of an eye. Be careful of decision-making without careful examination of the bigger picture. Be careful of harsh feelings and an unforgiving nature. Be careful of making snap judgments that may have dire consequences later on. Be careful of moral indiscretions that may appear quite harmless at the time but could destroy relationships, families, careers and character.
The great leadership realities for 2013
Leadership Platform in previous articles wrote about the five commonalities that each of us face every day of our lives (the SiPCOM factor). These are Situations, People, Choices, Obstacles and Movement. Intertwined into these commonalities are two great realities that we need to face in order to rise above the average as leaders. These two realities are:
- The often unseen jagged rocks of life discussed above that we cannot always see with our physical eyes and senses only. These submerged rocks are found in situations, people, choices, obstacles and movement dynamics.
- The great reality of a positive attitude that empowers us to face all obstacles and challenges with confidence. Life is so different for those who cultivate a positive attitude towards the commonalities of life! Life can be and often is a thrilling and uplifting experience for people who possess a seamless attitude.
Over the years many of us have been blessed with a positive attitude towards the challenges that we are faced with. I have personally witnessed and experienced the ability of almost all leaders to raise their leadership attitude when they are prepared to pay the price of letting go of negative perceptions.
To face the drowning threat that I experienced in the latter part of 2012 is not a matter to be glossed over. To me the incident has evolved into a valuable asset that cannot be bought or sold.
May readers of the column have a great leadership 2013!
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Do you recognize some areas in yourself or your team that need improvement? Email Louis on firstname.lastname@example.org for more on creating “Leadership Fit” leaders that generate successful movement (performance) inside your organisation.