Underwater Mountain Movers: What we can learn about leadership through ocean floor topography

Tidal waves and tsunamis shape the world even though they originate in deep unseen spaces.

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Today I had the delight of sitting in meaningful and lingering conversation with two very different leaders.

One is running for office in Baltimore. The other is cozied in a corner office in Annapolis. Both are committed to education, empowerment of young people, and positive community transformation. But one will try to move mountains in the politically charged atmosphere of Baltimore governance, the other will quietly create continental drift in a Range on the ocean floor. One will be a household name. The other you would likely never know even if you were in a room with her.

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about where we (read I) should stand in order to leverage change. Today I was reminded that we can be catalysts for change in both spaces of high visibility and low visibility. That the quality and impact of societal and system transformations are not necessarily proportional to how visible their architects are.

You don’t have to see the catalyst to see the effect.

Today I saw a quiet leader for the first time.

I don’t mean I had never seen this person before.

I don’t mean that I had never seen a quiet leader before.

I mean I genuinely SAW a person I’ve known for years for who they truly are and the power they actually wield.

You’d never know it if you met her for the first time. She’s a listener. Self-deprecating. Waits a long time before she offers her own thoughts. Affirms those around her. Works tirelessly behind the scenes. Quietly accrues trust from all directions.

She’s an Ocean Bottom Mountain mover. You see a rogue wave, wonder at its passing, and then let it slip your mind as it moves beyond the horizon. All the while, under the radar, she has re-shaped the landscape in ways that will affect the currents for years to come.

UnderwaterMountains

A popular aphorism that may have been said by Harry Truman, Eleanor Roosevelt, or some other wise sage goes something like, “There’s no end to the good you can do if you don’t care who gets the credit.”

If I see a success or transformation I know I had a hand in facilitating, do I need to claim credit? Why? What does the effect lose by my calling dibs? What do I lose in the present or the future if people don’t know my involvement?

These questions will be my companions keeping me honest and self-auditing as I myself attempt to work towards the greater good.

Today I realized someone I mistook for a starfish has been a Titan all along. I sat during and after the meeting humbled by this realization. Grateful to have finally glimpsed the long reach of this gentle and benevolent entity. Honored to observe the secrets of her subtle yet persistent influence.

Tidal waves and tsunamis shape the world even though they originate in deep unseen spaces. They may not always get the credit, but we are forever changed by their impact.