I’ve lived by the sea all my life, and love nothing more than to walk along the shoreline, with the waves breaking by my feet. It’s easy to imagine those same waves originating far out at sea, shaped by the tides and currents, influenced by the gravity of the moon, moving through the open sea before breaking on the shore.
Of course, the water that occasionally outpaces me and washes over my feet is not the water that was there at the start. Because the wave itself is not water. It’s energy. It is the energy of the wave that moves through the water (and moves the water). It is not one gallon of water that travels from the open seas.
Like so many seemingly simple things, when one deconstructs it, it becomes multi layered and complex. Waves flow through the water, and break upon the shore, the energy moving into sound, and imparted in the water, sand, and occasional crab, that washes up upon the beach.
I’ve been thinking about waves this week, when considering change as a social movement, and the ways that leaders operate in this space. Is leadership about the energy, or the wave, or the noise it makes when it breaks? Do leaders make the waves, or ride them?
It’s probably a fundamental question to ask as we consider what leadership means within a modern Organisation. Do leaders drive change, or ride it. Do they read the sea, like a sailor, or try to withstand it’s might, like a lighthouse or harbour wall?
And when we think about waves of change, are we thinking about the crash of surf upon the beach, or the tiny flow of forces through a community that may eventually build to a peak?
I’m playing around with some new language this week, exploring social movements and how they are held, and grow. The role of stories, of leadership, and their role in delivering change. If you cannot change an Organisation by formal power alone, then social movement will be key. And if leadership extends beyond the formal space, then an individual leader will need to understand their role in riding, or making, waves.