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In comparison to the entire aircraft, and considering its size, a rudder is an essential component to flight. Whether on the ground or in the air, it is an important part of navigation. In concert with flaps, elevators, and ailerons, the rudder gives the pilot the ability to dance through the air. Although positioned at the rear of the plane, it determines how horizontal direction or heading is achieved. It does its job without much complexity.

Large cargo freighters also utilize rudders at their stern to point the bow of the ship in a direction to avoid underwater obstacles. Through subtle movements left and right, the helmsman can navigate stormy seas by tackling large waves head on. Otherwise, the boat may capsize as it is broadsided by the curl of a wave.

There seems to be a misconception about leaders and managers. In many corporations, a great leader pulls the team in the direction that he/she solely determines is the only way to reach a specific destination. In this case, employees are micro-managed. Creativity and ingenuity fall to the wayside because of the lack of vision that should be shared with middle management. Ego and power decide the fate of the project, not the dividends that a quality job can produce.

In contrast, an excellent manager is behind the team, subtly helping them remain focused on imminent tasks with an eye on the overall goal. Realizing their job is to inspire others to reach their full potential not only gets the work finished, but it also helps instill pride through ownership. The humility of a quality manager lifts the team, and as a result, it distinguishes them for their administrative abilities, making them a desirable commodity.

Leaders and managers are not always the rudders in a team. An individual with a good work ethic, who is humble and has great integrity and insightfulness, can be a silent rudder. Through setting a quality example of doing their duty to meet personal and team objectives, this person can motivate the crew to go beyond their capacity to reach the seemingly impossible goal. Like the helmsman, who is neither captain nor adjutant and can steer a ship to safe harbor due to their experience and expertise, teammates can assist through tips and advice to enhance a project

Be an essential part of your team. Interacting with other humans to get work done does not need to be based on major complexity. Facing one’s own fears to communicate positive reinforcement for good work will make it easier to speak about missed objectives. Open honesty about acceptable achievements mixed with supportive feedback on below par work will strengthen work relationships. Providing assistance where it is needed, in a kind and informative way, builds admiration between employees. This behavior will take team members to the next level of improving working conditions for everyone and tackling more challenging projects. Whether you are a leader or a part of the team, you have the ability to “act like a rudder” and steer you and your colleagues toward success.