A Secret To Success at Leadership Or Any Goal

by  David Dye  |  Leadership Development
A Secret To Success at Leadership Or Any Goal post image

When I was a child, a mentor told me the story of two boys on their way home after a heavy rain. They’d just received new shoes.

Before they’d left home, their mother had given them very strict instructions not to ruin their new shoes.

Both boys tried very hard to do what their mother asked, but when they arrived home, one boy’s shoes were muddy and soaking wet while the other boy’s shoes were dry. Naturally, the mother questioned her sons.

How did they manage to both walk the same route, both take her instructions seriously, and yet arrive home with such different results?

The brother with wet shoes answered, “I don’t know mom, I tried to avoid all the puddles.”

The brother with the dry shoes answered, “I looked for the dry places and I put my feet there.”

I always imagined those two boys. One of them jumping back and forth, reacting to every puddle, trying to avoid them, but splashing in the edges despite his best efforts while his brother calmly ignored the puddles and stepped only on dry patches of sidewalk.
What a powerful metaphor for leaders.

How Do You Lead?

Are you like the boy with the wet shoes? In other words, do you know what you don’t want and jump back and forth, trying to avoid trouble? Are you reactive, zig-zagging back and forth? Do you create confusion in your team?

Or are you like the boy with the dry shoes? Do you have a clear picture of what you do want and take calm, clear steps toward it?

Effective leaders maintain focus on their vision, on the needs of the team, and on meaningful results. These leaders produce clarity for their teams. Their energy and the energy of their team flow naturally to what is most important.

The difference between confusion and clarity is often to simply change your focus from what I don’t want to what I do want.

It’s the difference between I don’t want to get my feet wet versus I keep my feet dry.

Your Turn

Remember, you can’t lead when you’re reactive. Be clear about where you’re going and what will get you there. Then take calm steps together with your team.

How do you stay focused on what matters most?
Photo Credit: Creative Commons

About The Author

Articles By david-dye
I work with leaders who want to build teams that care and get more done with fewer headaches.  »  View Profile

What People Are Saying

migs  |  20 Jan 2015  |  Reply

Your trying not to be reactive loses its purpose if the people above you is reactive..dont listen or pretend to listen to your reason but already has their minds set on what they want to believe.

David Dye  |  21 Jan 2015  |  Reply

Hi Migs,

It is definitely frustrating when your own supervisor or executives are behaving reactively. In those situations it is especially important to be purposeful and intentional in your leadership. To clarify with the decision-makers “Just so I’m clear, last week X was the priority. Are we shifting direction to go after Y? What are the reasons Y is #1 now – I want to make sure we do a good job fulfilling the goals.”

In the end, the only thing you can really control is your own behavior – your interaction with your team. Even with crazy change, we can act intentionally or reactively…and how we react will definitely set the tone for our teams.

All the best,


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