Leaders & Laggards

The above ‘motivational poster’ from 1932 was forward to HTBS by rowing historian Bill Lanouette. It was sent to Bill by one of his old rowing buddies from Fordham College, James Sciales. ‘I think it captures the use rowing as a metaphor for leadership, which we see a lot in advertisements featuring rowing’, writes James. And I have to agree. I found the word ‘laggard’ interesting and looked it up in a dictionary. ‘Laggard’ is a person or thing that does not go or move as quickly as others; and means opposite a leader. First known use was in 1702.

The leading boat in the poster is in mid-stroke, which gives the two-seat and three-seat in the crew an odd look, I think. It almost looks like the shell is Italian rigged, but your eyes are playing you a trick.

Today, reprints of the poster are being sold by the Art of Rowing, take a look here.


  1. You can't be a laggard in a boat, can you? I mean, you always move at exactly the same speed as everyone else. Reminds me of the famous quote from Victorian novellist Ouida, describing a rowing race: “All rowed fast, but none as fast as stroke”.

  2. I guess, Chris, that one would not call some members in a crew for laggards, but instead a whole crew would be laggards opposite the crew in the lead. Over all I think I would choose another word for the crews not in the lead.

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