As someone stepping into the CEO role for a nonprofit organization for the first time, it has been quite the developmental journey to embrace a leadership style that works for the creative and collaborative culture of the Children’s Creativity Museum. My understandings of who I am and who I need to be as a leader for the organization have evolved over the fast-paced and packed year that I’ve officially held the role.
A recent realization that is providing me a lot of peace of mind is that I don’t actually have to choose one particular leadership style. Sure, my staff wants consistency, AND adaptive leadership requires that we have an array of leadership styles into which we can tap in order to respond to a changing world. I can be authoritative and make solid decisions, AND I can be collaborative in thinking through a project. I can feel like I’m alone at the top, AND I can consciously connect with my support network.
It’s like shifting gears. When I am going uphill, I can kick it up a notch. And when I’m on the highway, I can cruise.
The choice in leadership style, then, becomes not about who I need to be forever-and-ever-amen, but rather what is required of me in a given situation.
Much of the contemporary leadership development literature is framed in dichotomies: Either, you are an effective leader; or you’re not. Either, you’re skilled at something, or you’re not. … There’s very little room for gradations. As such, we relate to ourselves in very stark terms, when in fact, as human beings, our lives are anything but black and white.
It’s not that I am not the kind of leader that I aspire to be. Rather, the potential for leadership is continually unfolding and finding expression through me. I am already the leader that I wish to be, and it is a matter of degree to which where I am right now aligns with that aspiration.
What would it be like if let go of “being the way we want” or “not being the way we want” and gave ourselves permission to own where we are right now in our journey of evolution? What difference would it make for us to relax our high standards and to simply acknowledge where we are in this moment?
There has been more and more business literature coming out that speaks to the idea of meaningful work as being an aspect of what defines a great leader: How is our work fulfilling and contributing to our sense of who we are?
Part of that inquiry involves acknowledging that today’s worker is a multidimensional being: Whereas the Industrial Age worker was a physical resource that could be worked to a certain point and then expended, the Digital Age worker (and their employer) is concerned with their long-term well-being and how that impacts their quality of work. Two resources I’ve especially appreciated that speak to this are Jim Loehr & Tony Schwartz’s The Power of Full Engagement and Tom Rath and Jim Harter’s Well-Being .
Some folks say that there are four dimensions or elements to well-being, some five. Here is my take on the five dimensions of Being:
Physical: How am I taking care of my body? What is my nutritional plan? What is my exercise regimen? There’s plenty of research out there connecting how taking at least 30 minutes of physical activity contributes to more productivity at work.
Mental: What thought patterns do we have about ourselves and our work? What beliefs inform what we do? Do we experience ourselves as effective or as a failure? Our mental models of the world shape how we experience our work.
Emotional: As much as we might not be willing to admit it, our emotional state impacts how we interact in the workplace. How are we tending to the matters of our heart? How are we making room for more joy, peace, and fulfillment? How are we truly holding sadness, anger, and stress?
Spiritual: People, especially here in the U.S., get all wonky about any mention of the spiritual in the workplace. Yet, our sense of fulfillment and meaning in life and at work are connected to how we relate to our deeply-held values. How does our most-cherished life principles relate to our work? How are we regularly connecting at work with something larger than ourselves?
Social: Most people don’t consider the social as a dimension of Self. And yet, I would argue that part of what makes work fulfilling and what makes us effective leaders are the relationships we have with others.
Which of the above five dimensions of being do you feel could be improved? Choose the one that would make the biggest difference in your life right now, and come up with one specific step you could take today to make progress on it.
Surrender is a paradox. When we surrender, we actually achieve real and authentic power. How is it possible that we are more powerful in surrendering?
The Buddha discovered that the mind enslaves us in conditioning that is reinforced through the repetition of habits. Jesus was a revolutionary precisely because he represented a break from the rigid and repetitive ways of thinking that dictated his society. Krishna counsels Arjuna on the battlefield that it is in the present moment that we must master our minds, which keep us trapped in the vicious cycle of samsara, of the past repeating itself in our present and future. Two days ago, our Muslim brethren began Ramadan, which involves fasting, a ritual break from those things that keep us apart from God in each and every moment.
We are slaves to our conditioning. Our habits define us. We don’t even realize the ways in which we are gripped by them: Our friend says something, and we already know what they are going to say. We make the same commute in traffic, and next thing we know, we have somehow guided ourselves back home without even remembering how we got there. Our partner says something with a bit of a tone, and the next thing we know, we’re fighting the same argument we’ve fought a hundred times before.
Surrender offers us freedom from this conditioning. It is a recognition that we are trapped in our conditioned ways of thinking, speaking, and doing, and saying, “I know where this is going to take me, and I don’t want to go there anymore. I choose to give up, trusting that I will be led to a place I’ve never been before.”
It is a surrender to every possibility made available by the unknown. It is in this infinitude of possibilities that we derive power, a power that can only be accessed through surrender.
Last week, I began my reflection on the power of the holy rosary by exploring the Joyful Mysteries. This week, I want to take a look at the Sorrowful Mysteries.
On the surface, the Sorrowful Mysteries refer to the last hours of Jesus before his Crucifixion. And although this is true, this set of sacred mysteries is about much more. It teaches us about resilience and the power of faith. In his example, Jesus teaches us the power of profound acceptance, of acknowledging that there are certain things that every human being, including Christ, must experience, namely suffering and death. More importantly, he teaches us what it means to surrender, to realize that, in the face of suffering and death, the only thing over which we have control is how we greet those moments that try our humanity.
WHO are we in the face of suffering and death? How can we BE with the inevitable trials of life?
In a few weeks, I will be sharing my digital mini-course on “Tapping Into the Power of the Holy Rosary.” This digital audio and e-booklet package is intended to introduce you to the basics of the rosary and how you can begin to use it as a object for meditation. Stay tuned!
If you haven’t figured it out by now, I am a firm believer that how we think about a situation, issue or circumstance shapes how we approach and react to it. If you are optimistic about something, then you are more likely to see the silver lining. If you are pessimistic about something, then you might be more prone to experience doubt about things working out.
Lately, I have been confronting higher levels of stress. I am starting to really understanding how a lot of this comes from my perfectionism. Listen to the thoughts of the perfectionist: “This has to be right, or I’ve failed”; “Nothing’s ever good enough”; “Everything has to be in place if this is going to work out”; and my personal favorite, “I trust that it will only work out perfectly if I do it.” Dwelling in this world, I make no room for mistakes. I set the bar too high. I am constantly chasing after a horizon that keeps pulling back from me. As a result, I create for myself unnecessary stress, which I could release simply by letting go of my lofty expectations.
I am starting to see that perfection isn’t about “getting it right.” Rather, to know perfection is to see the uniqueness of every moment. It is to dwell fully in each moment, knowing that there is no other way that moment could be because everything added up to that moment being what it is.