Photography has always been a passion for me. And one of the things that I love to capture with my camera is a lighthouse on a clear day. Recently, my wife and I spent a week along the coast of Maine. This is a beautiful area of the country and if you have not visited this part of the country, you have missed some gorgeous scenery. And you have missed some spectacular lighthouses.
We all have an image in our mind of the quintessential lighthouse. It is likely the lighthouse at the tip of Cape Hatteras in North Carolina. It is the tallest lighthouse structure in the U.S. One website that I consulted declared it as the tallest of the 437 lighthouses listed according to their height. It stands at a height of 210 feet. Many will recognize it because of that beautiful diagonal stripe painted on the tower that supports the light. I have not seen it yet, but I understand it is worth the trip.
The lighthouses that we saw last week were much shorter in height than the one on Cape Hatteras. My favorite lighthouse was the one at Cape Neddick Point. It is known as the Nubble. By contrast to the one at Cape Hatteras, the Nubble is only 41 feet tall.
Now wait a minute! Isn’t the height the central and most important feature of a lighthouse?
It was during this trip last week that it dawned on me that the central and most important feature of a lighthouse is its “light” and not its “height.” After all, it is called a lighthouse and not a heighthouse!
What is the leadership lesson from the Cape Neddick Lighthouse?
The leadership lesson from the Cape Neddick Lighthouse is that one of our primary functions as leaders is to provide the light necessary to guide our followers safely and securely to their destination and to help them avoid the rocks and shoals that may hinder and harm them along the way.
Many times we make excuses for ourselves and we claim that, because we do not have the title or the official position, we are not real leaders. It is as though we are saying that because we do not have height, we cannot be a leader. The Nubble stands (or squats) in stark contrast to that train of thought and reminds us that it is our light that makes us leaders. Is a “position” of leadership important? Absolutely. In fact, that is why the Nubble was placed where it stands today. It was constructed atop a rocky islet 100 yards from the tip of Point Neddick. This places the actual focal plane of the of the light of the Nubble another 47 feet higher above sea level.
What does all of this mean to me as a leader?
Take the information provided here today and apply it to your own leadership situation. Make sure, like the lighthouse keepers of old, that your wick is trimmed and your light is shining brightly. Make sure that your lens is polished and that your light is focused where it can provide the most help to travelers. And finally, when you can, try to seek a vantage point to maximize the distance that your light can be seen. But above all, make sure your leadership light is shining. A flame that is allowed to go out atop the tallest lighthouse serves no purpose. Because it is your light and not your height that ultimately matters.