Are You a Lamp, Lifeboat, or Ladder?
Some words never lose their impact for teaching leaders how to lead.
A case in point is a quotation from more than 700 years ago by the 13th-century Persian poet Rumi. He wrote, “Be a lamp, or a lifeboat, or a ladder. Help someone’s soul heal. Walk out of your house like a shepherd.”
While he wasn’t speaking directly to leaders, he might as well have been. Leaders who mentor, coach, and develop others need to be a lamp, lifeboat, or ladder at different times.
The ability to shine a light on an idea or issue and offer crucial insight is a sign that a leader knows how to teach others to see what they need to see.
By becoming a rock of support when team members falter, a leader demonstrates strength exactly when others most need it. Leaders who understand they are first and foremost a resource for others make others better through their feedback, instruction, and example.
Becoming a lamp, lifeboat, or ladder is what leadership is all about.
Those of us who excel at one of these roles need to push ourselves to get better at all three. Different people need different things from leaders. If all a leader does is shine a light on issues, they miss the opportunity to provide the sustenance and tools others need to succeed. Similarly, those compassionate leaders who primarily lead by supporting others must push themselves to become better teachers and coaches.
“Walk out of your house as a shepherd” is a reminder to know those around us and to be willing to engage in the actions that will help them succeed, even if those actions make us feel uncomfortable or vulnerable.
In the end, leadership is about making people and situations better through our actions, behaviors, decisions, and choices. We can all be better lamps, lifeboats, and ladders.
Each day is a chance to make some progress as a leader. People need your light, your support, and your ingenuity.