Kerri Burchill, PhD
Built to Stand Tall
Updated: May 14, 2020
Earlier this year, I went on a sailing trip. The first big day of sailing had us on 10' high waves on the Atlantic. My out-of-shape arms were burning as I wrestled with the helm, constantly correcting Crazy Love’s response to the waves. Each member of our novice crew was hanging on to something, albeit with varied degrees of comfort. I estimated that we were leaning about 45 degrees into the waves. As a kid from the prairies, the tilt of the boat had my attention.
Wondering if I was the only one nervous, I sheepishly asked Mike, our skipper, “At what point do we need to be concerned about capsizing?”
Mike shared some relieving facts that relate to life and leadership. It turns out that modern monohull sailboats are built pretty capsize-proof. In fact, monohull sailboats can lean about 135 degrees towards the water before they capsize, and even if they do, they typically right themselves. Learning that there was little I could do to drown the crew, I leaned in to the waves more, enjoyed the ride with increased freedom and giggled when we hit waves that drenched us. My arms kept burning as I managed the helm, but we eventually arrived at a peaceful bay for the night.
Herein lies the parallels between sailing and leadership: we are like sailboats, built to stand tall. No matter what is in front of us, we are programmed to right ourselves. It may not always look pretty and be easy, but trust that we have it in us to get the ourselves and our crew to its destination. In sailing terms, keep your eye on the horizon, the sails tight, and lean in to the movement of the boat. We do and will continue to stand tall.