Captain, Not Cruise Director


Remember, leading is not dragging. Leading is influencing others to follow you. One of the surest ways of developing a following is being nice. To that end, we have talked about the importance of being nice, not only as an employee but also as a leader. But can a leader be too nice? Yes, he can. Let’s reexamine what it means to be a “nice” leader.

Nice is not the Cruise Director who is likeable, warm, and welcoming, who puts people at ease, is your biggest fan, who you can confide in, who will step in and fix things, will act as a mediator, and who above all else works hard to prevent uncomfortable conversations and uncomfortable situations.

Nice is the Captain who isn’t a prick.

A Captain is a leader

who is confident,

who begins sentences with the word “I” – “I would like to know,”

who is even tempered,

who is a thoughtful educator,

who shows up and makes the hard decisions,

who holds his crew accountable for underperformance and is generous with praise for high performance,

who holds himself accountable when things go wrong,

who seeks out uncomfortable conversations and situations to avoid high seas,

who can be intimidating but rarely threatening,

who has an eye on the horizon,

who expects excellence because he has put frameworks in place that anticipate excellence, and

who, in the end, is responsible for safely guiding his passengers and crew back to port.

Above all, a Captain is a leader who commands respect. It is given to him because he has earned it, not demanded it. A Cruise Director doesn’t command respect and can be easily discounted as a likeable fun friend.

Be a Captain, not a Cruise Director.