Leadership Is…A ‘Red Shirt’


red shirt

Isn’t it ‘funny’ how we can see so many examples of leadership in everyday events if we just look for them?  My Thought of the Week this week – “People regret what they do not try/the paths not chosen; they do not regret decisions they make. Leaders know this and act. Failure is in not trying” – reminded me of a leadership lesson I learned in a ‘funny,’ both ironic and humorous, way.

I believe it was Jeff Foxworthy who told the story of an adventurous sea Captain.  On one trip, after being on the open seas for some time, the Captain’s First Mate relayed a message from the crow’s nest – that a large pirate ship was approaching from their port side.  The Captain, squinting at the horizon, calmly told his Mate to bring him his red shirt and prepare the crew for battle.

The pirates eventually boarded the ship and a huge battle ensued.  The Captain and his men successfully repelled the pirates’ challenge. While celebrating, the First Mate approached the Captain asking the question that had been bothering him since the pirates were spotted – why did he want the red shirt?  The Captain answered, “Wearing a red shirt, if I should be injured in battle, the blood would not show and the crew would not worry or lose hope.  They would continue to fight valiantly if they saw me leading the way.”

  • Leaders recognize the value they provide just by their presence.
  • Leaders realize the importance of appearance, perception and hope.
  • Leaders honor the trust others place in them.
  • Leaders plan ahead.

But the story did not end there.  A few months later, again while miles from land, a similar scenario arose.  The First Mate informed the Captain that four pirate ships were quickly approaching their ship.  The Captain peered through the telescope.  The First Mate asked him, “Shall I get you your red shirt?”  After a few moments of thought the captain replied, “No, bring me my brown pants.”

  • Leaders know the importance of having multiple contingency plans.
  • Leaders may be fearful, but they must emanate an air of confidence regardless of the situation.
  • Leaders may experience fear, but they act in spite of it.

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