Leadership by stick



“Steering was straightforward: tap the camel on the right side of his neck to make him lurch right, and the left to provoke the same reaction in the opposite direction.” (From “Travelling by camel gives me the hump“, by James Cracknell)

You can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a theory on leadership, and I am not going to add to the chorus of voices with my own opinion. What I can tell you, however, is how it works when it comes to me.

By nature, I am a hermit. No, I am a lazy hermit. A lazy hermit with a hopeless tendency toward introversion. Left to my own devices, I would stay in a room alone and do nothing. I know, because I have.

When I do emerge from my quiet place and enter the world of extroverts (they outnumber introverts 3-to-1, by the way), I do not like to be told what to do. But to be honest, sometimes I need that. The problem is that I don’t like it.

When you steer a camel, you whack him on the side of the head to make him go one way or the other. That is how God steers me, I think. And like a camel, I groan, hiss and spit in protest. But in the end, I turn.

My wife is the most sweet and loving person I know, but when it comes to something important, she has learned the camel technique too. I groan, hiss and spit in protest, but in the end I listen.

What I have learned is that the camel steerers are inevitably right. I guess it makes sense that when I am on course there is no need to whack me upside the head. It is only when I am veering in the wrong direction that I need the stick.

And I’m cool with that.

When I think back on my career in the Navy, the most educational moments came from mistakes, miscalculations or bad judgement; all of which ended in what we generally called “sand papering” or “getting a shotgun blast to the face.” They weren’t pleasant episodes, but combined they added up to the mysterious and evasive thing called “experience.”

So if you see me groaning or hissing in public, I’m not being rude. I am begin led. I am gaining experience.

You might want to give me some space, though, because I’m and introvert and introverts like their space.

Oh, and I spit.


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