“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”
― Brené Brown
Forgive me as I’m working on some material, thoughts and personnel development for my day job in the marketplace and these are the thoughts I’m coming to. Let me know what you think, challenge or question.
- Management – this is the base expectation for employees in the marketplace. This is largely how do things ‘get done’. Job descriptions are written and measured based upon these base expectations. Showing up on time and fulfilling these expectations is the bare minimum of what it means to have employment. The deeper levels of higher quality management revolve around such things as competence, controls, efficiencies and profitability. Management is pragmatic, it’s getting things done. Great management is doing those things more intelligently and effectively with enduring results beyond the competition.
- Leadership – this is not about things, but about people. Leadership is about the empowerment process of making others greater. Leadership is not only worried about the questions of what, but more about the questions of how and who. Leadership is a broader process of drawing others into the game and allowing them to contribute with a kind of harmony that joins many parts into a cohesive whole. When leadership has the trust of many and the many act and perform with this kind of unified whole within their giftedness, the results are powerfully exponential. Great leadership is not about personal titles or offices, great leadership is about the empowerment of others towards a common goal. It is not a science, it’s an interpersonal artform.
- Personal Identity – here’s the dirty little secret they didn’t teach you about in school or your college textbooks; your leadership and management skills are largely determined by how much you are aware of your personal identity that is rooted in your story. Your story forms your core and it influences everything you do, how you act, how you are motivated and how you motivate, how you react and how you respond. The painful parts of your story create vulnerabilities that when they are touched on, like a raw nerve, will cause you to over-react or lash out in fear. The more grounded and mature chapters of your story allow you to anchor down in raging storms of marketplace life and act with power while others are tossed and turned by the circumstances of the day. Out of your core you know who you are and why you are here. Your core is formed out of your story, you can’t escape it. We all participate in a lived story.
Our lives have to be bigger than our job descriptions. We are more than what we manage or get done. We are more than how others respond to our leadership. If we get our personal worth out of efficiency numbers or what others think of us, we will live and lead largely out of a great deal of insecurity. However, if we dive deep into our personal identity and interact with the vulnerabilities of our story, we will find the power to know who we really are that never changes regardless of the circumstances. That’s the story I want to live and lead others into that same journey for their own discovery, freedom and empowerment. The power that comes from knowing who we really are is not acquired like a commodity, it is learned and honed with deep introspection. This kind of power is not contrived, it is exponential.
“The secret of a leader lies in the tests he has faced over the whole course of his life and the habit of action he develops in meeting those tests.” -Gail Sheehy
I have long subscribed to the idea that there are 2 kinds of people, those that dream and those that experience their dreams; the only difference is discipline applied to get there. How do we acquire those disciplines? Usually it’s not because we are super-human and practically perfect in every way, usually it’s because we have been through battles and been tested and learned what persevering looks like.
When pressures come, the exterior wrapper of our false selves gets peeled away and we are seen a bit for who and what we really are. The things that are revealed on our inside is our true character and pressure has a way of bringing it out to the surface. It is there and in that place where I have to deal with my ugliness, look at it in the face and decide I want to be a better leader/person than that. In our insecurity, we can look away or blame others, but that is for cowards. Real leaders have the guts to look closely and adjust accordingly because they know if they pass this test, it will build something they want seen in the next revealing test. Real leaders understand vulnerability, they have to eat it for breakfast every morning to deal with their frailty.
Experiencing dreams do not come by accident, it happens on purpose. Part of the discipline to get there is being willing to gain character in times of testing, I happen to be in one of those places right now. How about you?
“3 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope.” (Romans 3:3-4)
When we were children, we used to think that when we were grown-up we would no longer be vulnerable. But to grow up is to accept vulnerability… To be alive is to be vulnerable.
― Madeleine L’Engle
The fallacy is that leaders are supposed to have it all together, be strong, take control, make things happen, have the answers. At least that’s what followers want to believe. If leaders believe their own press and come to the delusion that they do have it all together . . . well, history tells us that they are a train wreck waiting to happen.
What if leaders were open hearted about their lack of having it all together? What if leaders were honest about their fears and insecurities? What if leaders embraced vulnerability? What if leaders didn’t have the answers, weren’t self-sufficient, weren’t always strong, weren’t always sure, weren’t always secure? What if they were a hot mess like you and me? Would you still follow them?
If leaders are not open-hearted about their struggles, how can they lead at all? If they aren’t like us, how can they be an example to follow? The open hearted leader is one that makes peace with their vulnerability and that in fact becomes a trait in which others connect with and want to emulate. The open hearted leader says ‘I’m not okay, you’re not okay’ but let’s have the courage to face that reality. The open hearted leader does not find their strength in being sure, they find their strength in showing up and facing the storm on behalf of others, with others and supporting others from behind. I’m convinced that 98% of leadership is just showing up. There are many that talk a big game; but when the chips fall and the storm is at it’s peak, open hearted leaders show up.
Being vulnerable is not weakness, it’s being human, it’s being real. Those that know who they really are do not need to project a false self, they can unabashedly be their real self, warts and all. The open hearted leader is a dangerous man/woman because their hearts are free, they belong to no one and no thing. When leaders lead out of a clear sense of self, they are free to be dangerous. Being open hearted is a dangerous thing, enter at your own risk.
I would rather die of passion than of boredom. –Vincent van Gogh
Leadership is not a title, it isn’t a paycheck, it isn’t an office, it isn’t a cold strategy and it certainly is not a science, it’s a human art form. It’s one of those things that is mostly unseen but when it is not present, everyone knows it. When it is present, it happens so seamlessly that all involved believe and act as if it is just the natural order of things. Leadership is weaving the colors together in the background so that the viewers are inspired to stop and look. Leadership is about being picky about the right paint, brushes and canvas to do the job one has in mind. Leadership is not linear, it is not paint by numbers. Leadership is creative and imaginative. Leadership is messy, it is about getting your hands dirty. Leadership does not operate within a managed time-frame, it free flows until the inspired product is complete. Leadership is in fact never complete, it will always require some additional tinkering and finishing touches.
Leadership is never boring, it lives on the edge of where life is breathed and our hearts beat. Leadership is about people and the beauty of hope. Leadership is about what could be and a re-imagined future. Leadership is what can get us out of bed in the morning and decide to change the palate. Leadership is about being patient during the sculpting process. Leadership is about deep feeling and deep expression. Leadership is about stopping and noticing the details.
Leadership is a passionate art and a lifestyle. I’m all in.