Leadership Lessons from the Panama Canal

My husband and I celebrated our 30th anniversary in a big way cruising to and through the Panama Canal. Traversing that 100 year old marvel of engineering, perseverance and creativity taught me a couple of things.

  1. To build something that lasts beyond yourself requires creative vision
    • The builders “saw” ships larger than they knew at the time and built large enough for them
    • How big is your vision, leader? How far out are you willing to dream? God-sized visions will be terrifying and exhilarating. Will you go for it?
  2. Use what you have to construct your vision
    • They used the natural rainfall and river to provide water to move huge ships
    • They modified what was there to create a sustainable system
    • Do you start with the thought you’ll have to acquire what you need or do you first look at what you have in your hand?
      • Who has God provided for you?
      • What resources do you have that could be re-purposed?
      • What resources do you have that are otherwise being wasted?
  3. Never, ever give up.
    • The canal builders faced horrid work conditions and tremendous loss of life. Out of their perseverance:
      • We learned about mosquito-borne illnesses and their prevention
      • We have the canal
      • Every ship that used the canal in the last 100 years saved at least 8 days (many more) per journey
    • Leadership requires perseverance.
      • Vision will not happen without your action to motivate and inspire people to join you
      • You will have to keep the vision clear and always in front of people
        • We are forgetful and need constant reminders about where we’re headed and how to get there
      • You will work with your followers to get it done
        • Leaders who talk big and don’t dive in, lose the trust of their followers
  4. Listen to the people you lead; solutions come from them
    • The doctor who figured out the mosquitoes had to go was almost shut down but his new boss listened to him and kept the funds available. Had he not listened, the canal construction could have been stopped
    • Most of the time the best solutions to challenges come from the people you lead.
      • Are you asking for their ideas?re you listening? Are you trying those ideas?

About Linda Parkhouse

Jesus-follower, leader, pastor, friend, wife, mother, quilter and gardener. I love giving others the tools to excel at leading.

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