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When to Drop Your Anchor (and when not to)

By February 3, 2021Leadership

Anchors. Big, heavy pieces of metal that sailors use to keep the wind or current from moving their ship. The ship may swing, sway, and be tossed around, but the anchor is there to keep it secure.

Every leader has to know when is the right time to drop their anchor. Likewise, there may be times when dropping an anchor is actually detrimental. In doing so, it may cause more harm than good.

In general, we use the term “anchored” as a good thing. Effective leaders hold deep convictions; in a sense, they are anchored to them. Cultural winds or situational storms may beat against the boat, but the presence of an anchor allows them to hold their ground.

Convictional anchors may sound like …

  • “This is who we are.”
  • “This is what we stand for.”
  • “This is what we believe.”

Leaders who hold no deep convictions may wake up one day and find themselves in a place they don’t recognize. “How did I get here?” Rather than charting their course, they allowed themselves to be driven by whichever wind or wave was the strongest.

In times of struggle, anchors are necessary. They provide a sense of safety and security. When questions and uncertainties arise because of the surrounding storms, anchors provide identity.

But you can’t lower down an anchor that you don’t already have. The anchor must already be onboard.

A wise leader also knows when not to lower an anchor. Or, when to raise the wrong anchor.

As she surveys the map, she knows the organization cannot stay where it is. Instead of lowering convictional anchors, the organization may have deployed other types of anchors that are also powerful – tradition and apathy being just two examples. For the organization to move, those anchors need to be taken out of the water.

There is another type of anchor that a leader must recognize: It’s the anchor that predetermines the conversation.

What does that look like?

It’s when a leader speaks too soon or too forcefully before the rest of the team has had a chance to give input. You’ve been in meetings where the outcome seems like it has already been decided … because it has been!

To draw out the best suggestions, the wise leader will not lower the anchor too early in the discussion. Instead, they will ask questions, listen, and allow the team to speak. Dropping a premature anchor may tether the organization to a lesser idea when the better idea was right around the corner.

Every sailor knows that anchors are more than just decorations. When needed, they may be the difference between life or death. When life or death is not the issue, they may be difference between whether you make it to your proper destination. Without an anchor, you might face unnecessary (and wasteful) drifting — which leads to frustration and additional time, energy, and lost opportunity.

A few questions to reflect on:

Do you have right anchors onboard your ship? Do you know when to deploy them? Will you avoid dropping the wrong anchors?

Experience and Background

  • 25+ years of senior leadership experience
  • masters in management and leadership
  • presenter at the WFX National Conference
  • former president, Church Planters of the Rockies
  • helped start 2 for-profit tech companies

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