Last month I had a reminder about the importance of humility as a leader.

Diane and I were sailing in Scotland and it was a particularly windy week.  We had managed to moor in a lovely marina on the island of Bute and the wind was blowing a hooley, in fact it was gale force. We had earlier got into the marina safely by phoning ahead and asking for help from a boat yard team member to take the mooring lines off us.  We eventually made it in to our mooring coming in sideways; it wasn’t pretty and with some frantic rope throwing from Diane and help from the boat yard team it all worked out safely.

Later on in the afternoon we were securing our sails when a big yacht attempted to reverse into the space opposite us.  Most boats are very difficult to steer going backwards and this is what this skipper was attempting in a gale force wind.  This large yacht was in fact a training yacht with a crew of 5 youngsters, I assume learning to sail.  They were all standing ready to jump ashore holding their mooring lines ready to secure the boat.  This sounds easy and it is as long as long as the skipper can position the boat near the pontoon and the crew can safely get off without falling into the water.  Part of the way through a disastrous first attempt to manoeuvre backwards the skipper decided to pull out and try again.  Diane and I watched as the skipper then reattempted to reverse in again.   We both ran over and shouted over to him to ask if he wanted any help taking his mooring lines.  Quite indignant he shouted back ‘no certainly not’.

We then watched as he crashed the back of his boat into the neighbouring boat and hit the front end of his boat into the pontoon. Eventually shouting expletives to his crew to get off and get it tied up.

I could understand how he would want to demonstrate to the team ‘how to do it’.  In the circumstances it was an incredibly difficult manoeuvre and in very difficult conditions.  Looking back I wonder what his crew felt about his performance and how they handled him stomping around with a ‘grump on’ for the rest of the afternoon?  I wonder about the example he set to his crew about accepting help when it’s needed – and this actually being a good thing?

This was a real leadership lesson to me about reading the situation and knowing your and your teams limits being a great leadership trait.  Plus most people like to be asked to help out in difficult and challenging situations.  A little humility goes a long way!