Just Keep Swimming

Who would have thought that an absent-minded fish could encapsulate what we need to do to be effective leaders in today’s continuously evolving world? “Just keep swimming.” swimming.jpgThis isn’t to say that we need to keep floating that would only be maintaining status quo, but we need to keep swimming to stay abreast of the new and emerging technologies; we need to keep swimming to see and experience new situations; and we need to keep swimming to remain relevant to our followers.

I enjoyed the post by Michele Martin, however, I do not think that we should eliminate the word “hero” and its derivatives from our language and descriptions of modern-day leaders. The use of a language is important for leaders as well as how those words are used. If we were using “superhero” to describe a leader, then I would wholeheartedly agree with Martin’s thesis that we should not call our leaders “heroes”; however, I do believe that as a society we have embraced heroes to be police officers, first responders, physicians, nurses, mothers, fathers and even the school teacher that greets each student with a different handshake.

I would also argue that in today’s uber connected world we still need leaders who will take on the risk of discovering new and emerging technologies and allow followers the freedom to explore the possibilities that these tools and resources can have on our lives. I do not think it is by accident that our studies at Creighton began with the lessons from the heroic Jesuit leaders (Lowney, 2003). These heroes learned how to truly know oneself, which provides the foundation for immersing oneself and taking leap into the evolving world. Risk takers are heroes, not hosts.

Heroes also have sidekicks. As Weinberger (2011) and others taught us, there is just too much knowledge out there for any human to comprehend. He also suggested that we need to surround ourselves with people who have diverse experiences and beliefs in order to get exposure to the vast amounts of knowledge. Again, this sounds like a pretty heroic view and one that those with insecurities cannot value.

Finally, heroes are human, not super human. Today’s modern leader, through self-reflection, needs to occasionally eat humble pie. A true leader is not defined by titles and compensation, but rather by influence. One of my favorite TED Talks is from Drew Dudley. Recently I started a new position and I was challenged to bring together a diverse group of people, both in terms of tenure at our organization and in professional experience. I shared Dudley’s TED Talk because one person cannot save the day like a super hero, but one person can help others reach their full potential.

We cannot slow down the adoption of technology and the rise of artificial intelligence, but we can just keep swimming, just keep exploring and just keep encouraging. So, jump on in. The leadership water is just fine.



10 thoughts on “Just Keep Swimming

  1. Krista,
    Another consistently delightful opening. You always set such a good stage for your post. It really just flows. Interesting contrast in terms of highlighting the ways you feel leaders as heroes is still viable and desirable. I completely agree with you that many people including the first responders, parents and teachers you mention behave heroically and should be recognized as such. But is a hero leader one that you would thrive working for? Also, I wonder if being a host isn’t risky. When I facilitate an ideation or strategic planning session I have to take risks. I have to push people out of their comfort zone and trust that the process, my guidance and the work of the group will lead us to success. Throughout there are barriers, interpersonal conflict, and other challenges. But I know my role is to be the “host” and create the space and manage the process. A heroic facilitator/session leader would impose themselves too much. This is only one example, but I think hosts can demonstrate risk taking and bravery in many ways. Thanks, too, for sharing Dudley’s TED talk. You call out how it highlights how one person can help others reach their full potential. I consider this host behavior. Thanks for being amenable to my “contrariness”. Would love to hear your thoughts on this angle. Thanks for the great posts this term and best to you on the home stretch. ~Tricia


    • Krista,

      A delightful blog again this week. I appreciate your writing style so very much. Your connection of the reading this week back to our first course was spot on. I think the term hero can be used in many ways. I agree with Martin in the sense that if the leader of a team or organization is looking for ways of “saving the day,” the approach is misdirected. As you described, I think there are all sorts of heroes. My father was a hero to many, including myself, in the way he fought health battles. I have been around others in the workplace that I would describe as heroes by the way they quietly lead by example and set aside personal aspirations to meet the needs of our students. Thank you again for your blog this week.
      Take care,



    • Hi, Tricia:
      Again, thank you for the kind words. It is always nerve wracking when I hit “publish” on my post. So, again, in my paradigm, I kept thinking of host in terms of a parasite relationship. The host leader might actually accept and allow status quo or worse toxic behaviors to fester. Although I do appreciate your counterpoints to my points. As we have learned and will continue to, a leader must be open, honest and HUMBLE. It’s OK to say that we are all still learning, but we do expect our leaders to stand behind their decisions. Perhaps I can convince you that is at least a bit heroic? 🙂



      • Yikes! Thanks for sharing your perspective on “host” as a parasitic relationship. Within that paradigm I am a fish springing legs and running quickly from the water. Totally different view than what I took. Great reminder to ensure terms are defined. And yes I am fully behind the everyday heroic acts you and Jason discuss as well as that which is embedded in the act of standing behind one’s decision. Thanks for the counterpoint! ~Tricia


  2. Nice post. The imagery of swimming fits the constant – some would say whitewater – flow of technology and information. It also brought to mind the difference between solitary swimmers like sharks versus schools of fish that swim together. Maybe there is a good reason they are called “schools.”


  3. Krista,

    I have thoroughly enjoyed your posts over the last eight weeks, and again here I was entertained and informed. Very well done!

    I’ve had the opportunity to whitewater raft on a number of occasions, and your post got me thinking about an important lesson I learned (and applied) in those experiences…and the same would seemingly apply to swimming in an open current also. Our guides understood well that their control of the raft increased when we were moving either faster or slower than the current, even marginally so. However, when simply riding the current, the river was in complete control. There were plenty of times (thankfully) that we rode the current—providing times to rest, to catch our breath, and to take in our surroundings—but the more challenging sections demanded that our leader orchestrate a host diverse maneuvers that intentionally altered our speed or direction relative to the river’s current.

    This seems like a great portrait of the leader today, trying to navigate the swift rapids of technological advance. Knowing the current and all things that impact it are important, but that knowledge also needs to be translated to a team that can effectively row together (or swim…though synchronized swimming offers a much less appealing image, at least to me!). A good leader will do both, and it seems that our current and future landscape will require equally diverse maneuvers as those I encountered on the rivers: sometimes full speed ahead, sometimes full speed in the opposite direction, and everything in between. And like the river, there seems promise of great adventure!



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