Are You a Lighthouse or a Tugboat?

February 21, 2024


“Be a lighthouse, not a tugboat.”

I’ve stopped counting the number of times my business coach has reminded me of this. In fact, I’m pretty sure she said it this week. While there are a lot of great lessons in these six words, one of my favorite takeaways relates to vision and vision-led growth.

For anyone who isn’t already familiar with the parable:

A tugboat’s role is to lead boats safely to shore by pulling, dragging or pushing them. Often wearing themselves out in the process. Now, consider the lighthouse; it’s also there to guide boats safely to shore. But, the lighthouse doesn’t push, pull, or drag. It stands tall on the shore, beaming out light for all to see.

So, when our vision, value proposition and growth plan is clear, we’re like a lighthouse. Our stakeholders are clear about what we believe and where we’re going. This means our light shines farther. And, we know people are much more inclined to help when they know how to help.

Unfortunately, it’s easy to slip into a tugboat mindset, particularly when our vision for growth isn’t clear. Instead of broadcasting our vision and building alignment, we get wrapped up in the day-to-day or shift our gaze to others in our market. Then, we end up trying to push, pull or drag ourselves, our teams or our clients along with us.

So, here’s my friendly reminder to you:

“Be a lighthouse, not a tugboat.”

I’d also love to know your thoughts on this parable.

Do you ever feel like a tugboat: worn out from trying to get your message out or generating new leads? Likewise, when have you been a lighthouse and what was the result? Perhaps it was a great social media post, speaking engagement or client win. Drop a comment below and share your experience.

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Karen Bailey is a brand purpose consultant and specializes in helping companies define their purpose and align their business around it. In 2017, she launched the blog, Purpose Greater Than Profit, to start a meaningful conversation about the increasingly important role of brand purpose, purposeful leadership and a better way of doing business.


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