Leadership lessons come in many contexts. Last year, I shared what I learned about inspiring “courage” from my Scuba instructor on my first panicky intro to Scuba. A few more dives logged, I continue to see more connection between leadership and Scuba. Part metaphor. Part reality. I look forward to hearing your real-life metaphors and application.
6 Leadership Lessons From Scuba Diving
This one seems obvious, but as we were travelling around the island, one of the most frequently uttered phrases we overheard from surfacing divers was, “I just keep forgetting to breathe.” Each time, my son and I would grin at each other and ask “how is that possible? “
It happens in leadership too. When the going gets toughest, it’s easy to “forget” to breathe.
Leaders need oxygen, and pause. Next time you’re feeling underwater, notice your breath. Gaining control of your breathing helps the rest of the scene feel more manageable.
2. You can say a lot without words
Scuba divers are taught hand signals for the basics: “shark,” “I’m out of air,” “look now,” “Are you okay?” It’s fun to jump in with a new group of divers and fit right in with our common language. Teams need a system of common, simple communication.
But it’s also so important to know your team and watch their non-verbals.. “Something’s wrong with his equipment”. “She’s swimming like crazy away from the crowd, she’s off to take a picture of a lion fish.”
Leaders can learn a lot by just paying attention to their team’s movements, expressions and focus.
3. There’s a lot you can’t see at the surface
It all looks so calm at the surface: the sunshine and the crystal blue water. But go a little deeper and there’s many beautiful mysteries waiting to be discovered, along with rocky edges that will rip you up if you’re not paying attention.
Great leaders go deeper and don’t rely on the apparent answers
I’ll admit it, my natural instinct is to race around and “see” as much as possible. But going a little slower is way more efficient (your air lasts longer) and the best discoveries are tucked deep inside the coral.
Leaders who slow down enough to really take in the situation, will spot more.
5. Stay close to your team
When scuba diving, it’s tempting to work you own agenda, but the consequences may be severe. We learned that clearly established roles and agreed upon strategy at the beginning was vital. When in doubt, stay together.
Strong leaders know that a highly-coordinated team is the best defense against tricky situations.
6. Panicking makes the problem worse
It’s easy to panic fast when you’re 100 feet underwater, and can’t see your partner. A frantic response leads to crazy solutions that will immediately aggrevate the situation.
The same thing happens in leadership. The immediate reaction is seldom the best response. Leaders stay calm amidst the urgency to make more informed decisions.