As a River Changes

be the river of

The natural world is spectacular in how well it serves as a metaphor for leadership and change. One of the most powerful natural features that speaks to the heart of the human spirit is the river. It is steady, yet ever changing. We explored earlier the differences between glacial and flooding change. Both are options for our organizations, but the river beckons us towards a much stronger, sustainable model for our efforts.

Our families, schools, and communities; call upon us for steady leadership that will still be dynamic in facing and enacting change. This is a challenging today as ever; especially when we feel the pull of so many directions and facing what seems like ever unsurmountable external pressures.

As I think of such challenges and opportunities my mind wanders back to the memories of being on the water with my rowing team. I fell in love with the water and especially traveling to various rivers across the United States for our regattas. Each river may have been unique, but they all shared similar characteristics…characteristics we as aspiring, positive change-agents can model in our own unique journey.


Characteristics of the River:

1. It Attracts

Rivers played a crucial role in the development of human civilizations. Whether it was in the plains of Mesopotamia or the early colonies in America, we choose to live near rivers. Even today, the largest cities can be found anchored near a river or other large body of water. Yet, not only humans alone do rivers attract, but also abundant wildlife. Rivers provide valuable habitat for a whole host of animals and plant life.

  • Takeaway?

The change we seek must attract others. If the change we are seeking does nothing, but divide our families, schools, and communities; we need to take pause. In enacting change, others become bought-in when we seek input and share ownership of the mission. If we are rigid in our vision of change, we may repel away others whose insights and strengths would add value to the change we are seeking.

Let our voices and visions honor others by creating a climate where everyone feels welcomed to offer up new ideas and honest feedback for growth/improvement.

2. It has a Source

Even the mightiest of rivers have a source that would be surprising. Here are a few below:

Source of the Yellow River in China (also called the ‘Cradle of Chinese Civilization’)

yellow-river-source[2]

Source of the Nile River (2nd Longest River in the World)

nile-headwaters-1[2]

Source of the Amazon River (glacial melt starts what is the longest river in the world)

origin of amazon

Each river has a source from which they begin. In most cases those sources are small trickles of water. Yet, as these trickles proceed they are joined by more water from streams and other springs to become the roaring rivers we know them as.

  • Takeaway?

Change starts somewhere. When we embark on our own journeys of change and growth it is important to know that the journey starts not with us, but within us. If we seek greater change anywhere beyond ourselves it must start with the basis of who we are. Building on personal disciplines and cultivating good habits will help ground us and keep the source of change (no matter the challenges faced) trickling on.

In the book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey, calls this the Private Victory. Winning the private victory is in other words building the character of self-leadership. If our desire is to move beyond quick fixes and enacting quaking, lasting change it must start deeper than surface level tactics. It will require a dive into our own hearts.

3. It Shapes

The final characteristic of a river we’ll explore is that it shapes the landscape around it. The Grand Canyon is mesmerizing, but it is sometimes hard to believe that water (the Colorado River) was the creator of such a phenomenal natural treasure. Now, you struggle in most spots to even see the Colorado River at the bottom of the canyon still carving away. Steady, consistent, unyielding. These are the qualities of the water scraping away layer after layer of the canyon.

The Western United States plays host to numerous other features shaped by the rivers and water that dot the landscape. These include: slot canyons, gorges, and mountain valleys. It is incredible to think that from such a common substance as water, we can be blessed by such beauty and diversity.

  • Takeaway?

Steady change delivers results. We would fool ourselves to think that we are the only ones in the world trying to enact change. What we can deliver though through steady, consistent, and unyielding efforts is change that will last. Being measured and accomplishing incremental goals and adjustments will accumulate exponentially. We cannot drive hard all the time, we will burn others out and extinguish ourselves.

Being measured and realistic with our goals will help tee us up for success. Not just in the short-term, but especially in the long-term. We can shape our family, schools, and communities, but it will not happen overnight or maybe not even within the next year. However, keep at it, because your efforts are making a difference!


Thanks for joining me down on this float trip through three characteristics of a river that can help us as we embark on positive, lasting change. This week is one of my favorite weeks of the year with National FFA Convention so be looking for a few posts through the week! 🙂

Have a wonderful rest of your week and thanks for reading/sharing!

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