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Creating Successful Leaders

By Margaret Smith, UXL: Creating Successful Leaders

For me the ocean is a magical place where I can relax and get lost in the consistency and the power of the waves. It’s also a place where I witness amazing imagination in other people and a calm that doesn’t exist in their everyday world.

I recently spent two weeks on the beach in Delaware where my family has a house. It’s become a tradition for family and friends to gather there for the last two weeks of July. I’m never quite sure whose car will pull in the driveway or where they will sleep, but that’s the fun of being ‘at the beach’. It always works out and there always seems to be plenty of food and floor space!

It may come as a surprise, but the beach turned out to be offer a lot more than sun, water, and sand. I actually observed a lot of amazing leadership truths while I relaxed and watched.

What the Beach Teaches You About Leadership:

1. Be Open: As they say, “if you build it, they will come.” Start building a tradition today—the memories are priceless. You may also find you have more friends than you realized and the laughter outpaces the ice making. My family came from Colorado, Georgia, Virginia, and Pennsylvania (we came from Minnesota, but that doesn’t count!). High school and college friends showed up, even just for a day. It was a treat to look west and see someone who we hadn’t seen in a year crossing the dunes laden with an umbrella, chairs, and sunscreen!

2. Get Outdoors: The ocean is entertainment for all ages.  A pile of sand and the mystery of the next wave brings out the child in everyone. Young children, parents who probably are difficult to pull away from their blackberry, and grandparents all mix it up on the beach. It was the real great American get together.

3. Take Risks: One morning I was taking a walk at the water’s edge and observed a mother with her three children. I would guess her kids were around 5 to 8 years old, and they were all preparing to take on the waves. Their mother was giving them instructions on how to jump and dive to avoid getting blasted and thrown up on the shore like the sea shells they had been picking up. As she dove into water that was roaring and foaming and changing depths she yelled, “Come on go for it!” The look on their faces read, “Are you kidding?! I can’t see the bottom, I don’t know what is out there… It goes on forever! Is she nuts?” Despite their fears, they soon go the hang of it.

Later, I saw the children’s mother yelling at them ‘ot to walk back to their beach house alone. The oddness of her concern about walking to the house vs. jumping into this massive, ferocious looking body of water that they knew nothing about struck me. The ocean has the power to make taking risks a good thing.

4. Challenge Yourself: I love watching the Olympics, and I could see the same energy and challenge of the Olympics demonstrated all along the beach. Volleyball became popular, with nets going up every 100 yards, girls doing cartwheels, races being held, new games being created, and all in the spirit of healthy competition and the creativity. We sure are capable of new ideas when we’re not glued to a screen. In here lies a strong message for all of us: Move a little and accept a new challenge.

5. Pitch In: You carry so much stuff to the beach for the day and everyone needs to pitch in. And, just as soon as we get it out there, we have to help carry it back to the house (and it never fits as well when it’s full of sand!). Even the smallest in the family helped and felt like an important part of the team. Many times we observed people reaching out  to help someone laden with beach supplies and sandy kids make it over the dunes. We’re all in ‘this’ together—it’s a lot more fun with some help.

Thanks for listening. I can’t wait until next year!


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