I’m on a short vacation with my family on the North Shore of Lake Superior. My preference is for tropical locations, but God’s creative hand is clearly evident in this beauty! We’ve been awed several times by what we’ve seen, and wherever we are, the best part of vacation is being with loved ones and getting a break from the normal routine. Some of my favorite activities on vacation include hiking, biking, and just lounging outdoors to enjoy God’s creation. On one of my walks along the shore, I passed a man sitting on the rocks, intently studying a pile of rocks in front of him. Upon closer examination, I realized this wasn’t just any pile of rocks.
This was his “rock balancing” sculpture. The picture you see above was the result of his efforts. I believe it took him the better part of an hour to achieve that feat. No, there is no trickery involved. Those 17 rocks are all individual, and the arch is held together by nothing other than friction and gravity.
I watched him work at building the arch for a short time. At that point, he had set the bottom four rocks on the left and bottom five on the right. To construct the arch, he was experimenting with different combinations of rocks, different ways to hold them in his hands to set them in place, and different ways to bring them in contact with the two foundations.
I found a number of things interesting about this activity and how he approached it. Despite the inevitable repeated failure in the work (the rocks toppled over many times), he wasn’t frustrated. In fact, it appeared to be a peaceful activity. He took his time to consider options, and when the rocks fell, he calmly continued on.
Also, to accomplish his goal, he had to become very familiar with his medium, the rocks. He had to study each rock’s size, shape, weight, and courseness. The curves, indentations, bumps, and edges all impact the rock balancing.
Perhaps the most surprising part of his rock balancing work is what he did after the sculpture was complete: He walked away. Where we are staying at the resort is a very short walk from that spot and I have not seen the rock balancer himself return. He did his work, achieved his goal, and trusted the results to other forces. The picture I took of the stone arch was taken the next day. It was rather sturdy. In fact, the arch stayed there until a storm the next day, more than 48 hours after construction.
As a leader, what can I learn from rock balancing?
First, leadership, like balancing rocks, involves a lot of failure that is best accompanied with a peaceful disposition. If the rock balancer had become frustrated, the rocks would not respond with, “Oh! You’re frustrated. We’ll work harder at staying together.” Followers, do not respond well to frustrated leaders. On the other hand, they find confidence, trust, and hope in leaders who have peace when things are falling apart.
Second, leaders must become intimately familiar with their followers’ attributes, just like the rock balancer must do with the rocks. Leaders need to know their followers’ talents, skills, personal vision, stress points, and more. The more a leader knows about his followers, the stronger he’ll be able to build the organization.
Finally, there is a point at which leaders need to walk away from their work and let the results run their course. The rock balancer walked away and let nature have its way (not that he could prevent that anyway). Leaders, too, must do their best with what they are responsible, then walk away to trust others in the organization to follow through with their responsibility. The leader who keeps his hands in every activity and decision is not trusting others to do their work. This has the very great potential for undermining organizational effectiveness and capacity.
How are you at balancing organizational rocks? My gut says that a significant key to success is how much peace we find in the our work as leaders. If we approach the work of leadership with peace, the other elements are more likely to follow. If we do not have peace, there is little chance we’ll succeed as a leader.
Dr. Scott Yorkovich is a leadership coach and consultant. He works with individuals, small and medium organizations, and ministries. Contact him at ScottYorkovich[at]LeadStrategic.com with your questions.
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