Approaches to Leadership: Hurricanes, Wakes, Ripples and Deserts

How leaders foster desired changes characterizes their reputation as an effective leader.

This article was previously published on LinkedIn.

Leadership styles make or break companies. Why?

Teams reflect leadership.

It doesn’t take long to look in the mirror. If you don’t have a mirror, it only takes a cup of coffee to ask some teammates to reflect on your history working with people, projects, teams, and companies.

If you’re dissatisfied with your company, teams, projects, progress, and output, look in the mirror first. It could be you

Hurricane Leaders

Hurricane Leadership

Erratic, unpredictable, contrarian, immeasurable collateral damage

No one sees you coming. No one knows where you’re going. Teams see you’re on a rampage, but don’t know how to help. So, they stay out of the way and otherwise ensure damage to themselves and their interests is minimized – hoping you don’t swing back around for another go. The general assumption when you are present is a higher probability of storms with damage than rain enabling growth.

Your presence breaks things, sometimes people.

Leaders Who Leave Wakes

Leaders Who Leave Wakes

Purposed, directional, controlled, consistent, enabling

People see where you’re going and want to be part of the journey. And because of your plan, communication, and choices, teams who journey with you can be part of an experience that changes in all directions.

Because of you, those who journey with you can make use of the wake you leave behind in a constructive, growing, and useful manner. Your wake changes the company, culture, people, and teams.

Leaders Who Leave Ripples

Leaders Who Leave Ripples

Modest, enjoyable, optional, a lovely time

Who doesn’t love a pleasant afternoon aboard a boat with friends? The gentle hum of the motors barely noticeable, a warm, gentle breeze, the time just between a hot afternoon and dark evening, both without clouds. Sunset.

Leaders who want a sunset cruise with chums enable others to relax. They need only aspire to the level exemplified. No need to rock the boat, make big waves, get out there and jump wake walls, increase skills, or otherwise even get out of the boat. This leadership style is peaceful. People like to be with you knowing that the demands may be low.

Your ripples eventually make contact with other parts of the ecosystem. To what extent change is stimulated, at what velocity or frequency may be variable, even unnoticed.

Desert Leaders

Deserts Leadership: Not Present

When there is no vision, mission, set of objectives, or desired outcomes, people do not know why to gather, what to work on together or even why they, or the company, matter. Leaders are looked upon to cast a vision, rally the people, lead the charge, and foster culture. In the absence of present, active leadership, folks tend to look for someone else, somewhere else, where they are recognized, valued, a part of something bigger than themselves.

Your impact on the culture, team, project, and company is negligible. There are no hurricanes, wakes, or ripples. Nothing is happening as a result of your leadership.

How Do You Choose Your Leadership Impact?

  1. Know what problem you want to solve
  2. Know what desired outcome you want after solving the problem
  3. Plan your leadership approach to foster desired change
  4. Communicate the what and the why of the problem and outcome
  5. Include the teams in solutioning, structuring, and implementation
  6. Continually adapt your leadership style contextually

What type of teams do you have in your company? They usually reflect leadership.


I’ve made a commitment to write more articles in 2020. It is material we discuss every day at Trility and with our clients. If you’d like to keep informed and even interact, please connect or follow me on LinkedIn. Or we can send you an email

We are also always looking for system thinkers to join us – those who can see the larger landscape and do the work as well.