The Seven "Ships" of Leadership

The aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan transits the Pacific Ocean with ships assigned to Rim of the Pacific 2010 combined task force as part of a photo exercise north of Hawaii. RIMPAC, the world’s largest multinational maritime exercise is a biennial event which allows participating nations to work together to build trust and enhance partnerships needed to improve maritime security. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Dylan McCord/RELEASED) On this Memorial Day, it is good to remember the vital contribution to leadership thought contributed by those charged with guiding, leading, and commanding others in the most trying circumstances.

Leadership indicates one who is out in front, navigating choppy and uncertain waters, charting the course for those under their charge. These fine military minds give us a fleet of ships to sail with confidence.

So, all aboard the leader ships...


Those who command themselves, command others. ~William Hazlitt

If you would be an effective leader, you have to own yourself...your mistakes, your missteps, your miscalculations. There is a vulnerability in self-ownership, but there is also the power of transparency.

Another aspect of owning oneself is commanding your own passions. A leader incapable of controlling his passions, cravings, and predilections creates some level of doubt in his followers.


Rank does not confer privilege or give power. It imposes responsibility. ~Peter F. Drucker

The biblical equivalent of this is found in Luke 12:48 -

"unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more."

Great expectations accompany - and rightfully so - great authority. The closer to the top you find yourself, the more others will expect from you. A position of leadership is more than a feather in your LinkedIn cap; it is a stewardship. Some person or entity has placed great faith - and the success or failure of an organization or venture - in your hands.

Study the recent firings at Baylor University. President Ken Starr and head football coach Art Briles were stripped of their positions because of their failure in the area of stewardship. That failure had disastrous consequences for some young ladies on campus and for the integrity of the institution itself.

A leader is a steward of something greater than himself or herself. Handle with care.

Leadership is an opportunity to serve. It is not a trumpet call to self-importance. ~J. Donald Walters


Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity. ~General George Patton

Ask any honest successful head coach with multiple championships to his name how many he has won and he will likely reply, "None. My players won them."

Regardless how indispensable your strategies and team-building skills may be to success, you cannot succeed alone. Recognize that - publicly. Reward it - generously. Relish it - completely.


'Tis skill, not strength, that governs a ship. ~Thomas Fuller

Ignorance may be bliss, but it is no excuse. It is also deadly. The woodsman is not wasting his time when sharpening his ax. The rocky shores of "might-have-been" are littered with the remains of ventures guided by dull minds and dim wits.

Life is education and education gives life to any endeavor. The more you know, the more you want to know. The more you want to know, the more you know.


Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers. ~Harry S. Truman

I believe the most powerful, influential, and successful leaders are born leaders. I also believe many more are born with such qualities than actually reach the potential of them. The difference is desire...and discipleship.

Put yourself under the proper tutelage.

In the '70s and '80s, the Reverend Jerry Thorpe was a sought-after youth speaker. He used to say...

"If you are a D student, run with the C students. If you are a C student, run with the B students. If you are a B student, run with the A students. If you are an A student, hang out with the teacher."

In other words, seek the influence and guidance of those most likely to improve you, to make you better, stronger, smarter.

Who do you read? To whom do you listen? Who are the influencers in your life?


In the military, I learned that ‘leadership’ means raising your hand and volunteering for the tough, important assignments. ~Tulsi Gabbard

No victories are won without sacrifice. Many live in the shadow of greatness, content to be comfortable, where the risks are few and the rewards are so-so.

What will you risk for greatness? What will you lose to gain the victor's spoils?

Know this: The road to Heaven is as paved with blood, sweat and tears as the road to Hell is with good intentions.


Great leaders are almost always great simplifiers, who can cut through argument, debate, and doubt to offer a solution everybody can understand.

When I was in Seminary and learning vast theological concepts encapsulated in important-sounding words like Soteriology, Hermeneutics, and anthropomorphism, one of the best things any professor told me came from an octogenarian named R.O Woodworth. He stood all of 4'10" and was completely brilliant. He was also adept at "cutting to the chase." Dr. Woodworth told a group of would-be preachers...

"When you are speaking on an important subject, forget trying to impress your audience with your knowledge. That is self-serving. If you really want to be heard and remembered, then put the cookies on the bottom shelf so everyone can reach them."

Effective communication is key to the success of any endeavor. What you can't sell won't sail. And you cannot sell what you cannot explain in clear, concise, and compelling terms.

Decide right now whether you would rather "impress" everyone with all the things you know that they don't or effectively inform them and inspire them to achieve your goals. Would you rather send them scurrying for the dictionary (or Google, as it were) or charging into battle, Hell-bent for glory?

These are the ships built for leaders. They are seaworthy. This is the fleet that, if you command it well, will sail you to that distant, enchanted shore of the satisfaction that can only come form a hard-fought victory.

Bon Voyage!