When it comes to recreation, my favorite things have to do with water. I am pretty much happy doing any water activity; there is, however, one activity that I have witnessed but never tried. (That is going to change very soon.)

Recently I had the opportunity to witness a large group of students taking a surfing class. They were all standing on the sand in a circle practicing and listening to instructions. It was at this point that “caught the bug.” I did not join in during that particular lesson but in looking into the future, well it will happen very soon.

While watching the students learn the basics, I started thinking about leadership and what type of leadership lessons you can glean from surfing. I came up with four that I wanted to share with you.

1. Prior to any success, you have to work. To surf, you have to paddle out into the ocean. You will have to paddle out through the crashing waves and get to the right spot. Leaders need to work to get themselves into the right position for success. Leaders need to build relationships, stay informed, and be ready take advantage of opportunities.

2. Surfers learn to pick their wave. Waves are not the same, and you might not have the experience to surf the huge ones. Leaders need to be able to recognize which opportunity to choose. Choosing the wrong one can cause trouble for you and also for your team.

3. Timing is everything. I learned that surfing is all about timing. Once the right wave is selected, you then need to know when to begin paddling, so you catch the wave at the right moment. If you go to early, then it will crash down on top of you. If you go to late, then you will have a short ride on the back of the wave. Leaders need to understand when to take action. When an opportunity presents itself, great leaders are prepared to take action.

4. In surfing, failure is part of the activity. Every surfer wipes out. It is part of the sport. Learning how to wipe out correctly will protect you from getting seriously injured. Failure in leadership is also natural. A great leader understands this and is willing to admit it to their team.

I learned one other thing about leadership a long time ago from something that I read. I think it pertains to surfing as well. You can not learn to surf, or lead, by reading a book. You can learn the principals of the subject but when it comes to surfing, or leading, you have to get out there and catch a wave.

This week’s experiment involves getting out there. Are you out there in the right spot waiting for your opportunity? Or, are you just recovering from a gnarly wipeout? Get back out there and be prepared for your wave.