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Why Today’s Leaders Need to Be Kayaks vs. Locomotives

Note: To those James River readers, please excuse me for a moment while I set this up for those readers that don’t have the “best urban whitewater” running through their city.
The International Scale of River Difficulty is a standardized scale used to rate the safety of a stretch of river or a single rapid. The grade reflects the technical difficulty and skill level required. Rafters and kayakers love the thrill of conquering these river rapids and for some, the higher level the better – the more exhilarating.

Well, what if we approached the challenges we face daily with that same attitude? That’s the basis of an article I read recently by Martha Beck. Rather than keep chugging along like a locomotive (the way we’ve been taught) – “I think I can … I think I can …”, we should adopt a kayak mindset.

Exerpt: Each day, ask those two river-runner’s questions about every request or assignment you encounter. Do the things that are absolutely necessary or make you happy. Let everything else drift away. If you overlook something important, you can always paddle over to it later, or snag something similar floating by. That’s one of the joys of the crazy, fluid world we’ve created.
And, although I didn’t discover a lot of “new” in the article, it was a great reminder. After reading it, I have asked myself – am I being a locomotive or a kayak? It’s been helpful to get through the day and not feel as though I’m just merely chug-chug-chugging along.
So, go ahead – let your inner river rat guide the way!

><(("> Melissa Laughon

Melissa is a ><(("> Team Member at Catch Your Limit, a management consulting firm with offices in Tallahassee, Florida and Richmond, Virginia. To learn more, visit

Posted in Organizational Culture.


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