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What Kind of Wake Are You Leaving Behind?

The savvy entrepreneur is one whose business and relationships are evidenced by a wake of consistent improvement. In their authenticity, they make people better while making their business and bank account better.  I have worked with many entrepreneurs with horrible people skills. They leave a trail of negative words and hurtful actions directed towards employees, partners, and even customers. It is possible to run a business this way; but, not without consequences or impact on the enterprise in the long run.

Dr. Henry Cloud, author of Integrity: The Courage to Meet the Demands of Reality, calls the trail that follows every leader as her or her “wake.” A wake is the disturbed water downstream of boat or other object moving through water which is caused by the flow of the fluid around the body. Dr Cloud compares the level of turbulence that a leader leaves behind to wake of a cruise ship or swimming duck.

Dr. Cloud states:  “The wake is the results we leave behind. And the wake doesn’t lie and it doesn’t care about excuses. It is what it is. No matter what we try to do to explain why, or to justify what the wake is, it still remains. It is what we leave behind and is our record.”

Some leaders may leave a small yet gentle wake. They possess emotional intelligence allowing them to perceive and understand the feelings and needs of others and themselves. They seek to understand and are comfortable admitting where they lack knowledge or skill.  They then surround themselves with teams who share the vision and possess strengths that compliment or exceed their own. This leader empowers and challenges those around them because of the positive wake they leave behind. They build strong teams and relationships within the company and with external clients and vendors.

The opposite type of leader leaves a wake also; but, it is usually not positive for the people or situation. They lack the ability to balance people and mission; often times, leaving the people to suffer the most. Some entrepreneurs can become very task oriented and may have excelled in business because of their technical ability. However, they lack the soft skills needed to effectively navigate the nuances of leadership.  

I realize that my best real world lessons about leadership have been from my worse bosses. The times I spent under micro-managing, aggressive or disorganized leaders who lacked direction and focus have shaped me for this very moment. If it weren’t for them, I may not have been so persistent about becoming a better leader. I don’t want to be remembered as THAT leader.  Do you?


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