Are you a Lamp, Lifeboat, or Ladder; Why not be all 3?


“Be a lamp, or a lifeboat, or a ladder,” wrote the 13th-century Persian poet Jalāl al-Dīn Muḥammad Rumi. “Help someone’s soul heal. Walk out of your house like a shepherd.”

[Admired Leadership’s Field Notes brought this quotation to my attention.]

Successful people are one or two of these three.

The lamp symbolizes wisdom; you help people see what they cannot see on their own.

You use a lifeboat to bring others to a better place.

Ladders take people to new heights.

The lamp can illuminate the lifeboat’s way, and the lifeboat can carry the light to new places.

Without the ladder, people do not rise. A lifeboat drifting with the current goes downhill.

The lifeboat can take the ladder to new shores where people can ascend; The ladder can help more people climb into the lifeboat.

Without the lamp, you cannot see hidden risks and opportunities.

The lamp can illuminate the ladder, and people can climb the ladder where the light provides new perspectives.

You cannot take people with you unless you have a lifeboat.

Two out of three leads to success but is not enough for significance.

People who lead a life of significance are lamps, lifeboats, AND ladders.

They show the way, bring people along, and propel them to new heights.

You are successful, but are you leading a life of significance?

I’ll help you choose the best path when you’re ready to turn success into significance.


Get more action steps about leadership and accountability in these recent podcast interviews:

Conflict management and leadership in Wake-up Call hosted by Mark Goulston.

Gaining buy-in: Way of Champions podcast, John O’Sullivan and Jerry Lynch:

Leaders as exemplars in Get Uncomfortable with Shae McMaster:

How to get good at getting better: Getting Down to Business with Shalom Klein.–08142022—Chris-Kolenda–Chris-Kolenda-and-Kimberly-Janson-e1mbu0q

CBS’s Margaret Brennan interviewed me for the Evening News about the Honor Ride and veterans’ struggles. You can view it here:

YFS Magazine published my article, “What We’re Getting Wrong About Veterans,” which gives you ways to help veterans find purpose and belonging, which is needed to believe that your life is worth living. Twenty-two veterans die by suicide each day.

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