Ah spring break. It’s a beautiful thing. Last week my family took a much-needed vacation with some sunshine and waves. One of the many activities in which we indulged was a three-mile kayaking adventure.

I rode in a tandem kayak with my 10-year-old daughter. She has such a zest for life, and if I wanted to represent graphically her spirit and enthusiasm, it’d look like the amazing purple man above.

Now if I wanted represent graphically her upper body strength… well, it would look more like… a noodle…
In other words: all spirit, no muscle.

Now I’m no wizard in a kayak, but the years and pounds I have on her certainly put me in the driver’s seat.

On the way out, I was finding it arduous to row while also trying to coach her on the positioning of her paddles, and count time so we were moving in synch. So I just told her to leave her paddle in her lap, assuring her (with a very mitigated sense of confidence) that I’d get us out there.

And by the time we arrived at the halfway point, I was burned out and frustrated, while she was bored and wondering why mommy was purple.  And no one was particularly happy.

It’ll be faster and easier if I just do it myself. Famous last words.

And we still had to get back to the dock.

So in gearing up for our return trip, before we set off, she and I spent a few minutes doing some practice paddling.  And we picked a song to sing on the way back, letting its beat set our rhythm. And we set off.

The first few minutes were admittedly a little slow, a little bumpy. But we did some real-time course correcting, and ultimately we found our stride. And it got easier. She was adding very real value, I was a lighter shade of purple, and ultimately we arrived at the dock a happier pair than the one we’d been at the midpoint of our trip.

Now perhaps the metaphor here is simplistic, but it really hit me in the face.  I preach this stuff all day long, and even I lost my way. It can happen to the best of us. But that investment of a little bit of time and energy, of thoughtfulness and humility really does get us all to a better place, a better result.

Leadership is not a nice-to-have. It’s a critical business capability. It’s an enabler of measurable results. And it’s an investment that no organization can afford not to make.

But the beauty of this investment is that it doesn’t requirement payment in full at the outset. It can be paid in installments. If you’re a leader, find literally five minutes today to pose a question or a challenge to someone on your team, and see what they come up with. Invite someone to tag along with you to a meeting, just so they can start to get a feel for what that level of interaction might look like… so that maybe someday you might be able to delegate your attendance to them.

Leadership doesn’t look like any one thing. So let go of the conventions you store in your mind, and make — or if you’re not a leader, then ask for – the smallest investment you can think of.

The results may astound you.