What sandpipers taught me about leadership


It was an early morning walk along the beach, well before most of the guests rolled out of bed for another day in paradise.  I wasn’t the first one up – the birds were hard at work already.  I came to a group of sandpipers who were furiously trying to catch their breakfast of fresh crab.  It was mesmerizing to watch them dart in and out of the waves, advancing and retreating over and over again with only their prize in mind.  As I watched, I was struck by the leadership lessons right in front of me.

I watched as their tiny tracks littered the sand while they frantically dipped their beaks into the tiny holes, the only evidence of the crabs safe below.  But as each wave came, every track disappeared, only to be remade as the sandpipers went back to their task.  I realized that I would be the only one who ever saw their tracks – simply because I was in the right place at the right time.  All of their hard work would be invisible to the world around them.


If no one else ever sees what I do in leadership, God still sees it, acknowledges it, and appreciates it.


It seemed like eventually the sandpipers would get tired of all of the running back and forth.  It struck me – wouldn’t it be easier to fly?  Wouldn’t it take less energy and effort?  Why were they choosing what looked like the hard way?


Do I sometimes do things the hard way out of ignorance or just because “that’s the way we do it?”  Or am I willing to do things what looks like the hard way because I know it’s a better choice, no matter what others think?


They kept working tirelessly.  For what?  For one little crab.  Have you seen the size of sand crabs?  They can be tiny – smaller than your pinkie fingernail.  Doesn’t seem like much of a reward to me.


Am I willing to put in 100% even if I am not guaranteed any results?


The birds did catch some crabs.  They triumphantly held them in their beaks before gulping them down into their bellies.  In the process, they had to ingest a lot of sand, too.  Which doesn’t seem very appetizing, but for birds is essential for digestion.


Do I expect the process of leadership to be clean and easy, or am I willing to deal with the “sand” in order to reach my goals?


Leadership lessons can be found everywhere you are willing to look – even in the habits of sandpipers.


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