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.
How we think about leadership shapes how we approach its presence and development in our lives. Behind our predominant economic model and our political structure is the very tricky idea that for there to be leaders, there have to be followers. A divide is created between those who are so-called “followers” and those who lead. An assumption is made about the capacity of others to make a difference.
How would we approach our leadership development differently if we came from the place that every single person has a contribution to make to the improvement of this world?
Rather than people being the cogs in the business machine, what if instead they each play a critical part in finding the best possible solution given the resource constraints?
One of the most deplorable byproducts of the an industrial-turned-capital driven economy is scarcity: The economic system as it is currently structured creates an inequality, one in which both the “haves” and “have nots” buy into the misbelief that there is not enough to go around.
And yet, in an abundant, whole (i.e. intact) Universe, “I don’t have enough” is just not real. It is a matter of expanding our mindset to be able to see that reality. It’s like technology giving us the ability to see infrared and ultraviolet waves. It is about going from the story of scarcity to “Life provides just enough of what I need.”
Developing an abundance mindset begins with putting our faith in an efficient, self-organizing and efficient Universe. Our Universe is not wasteful and provides exactly what is required for our evolution and full self-expression.
Stress seems to be a regular occurrence in this hyperstimulating age of instantaneous connectivity and constant (over)working. That our bodies have developed a capacity over millennia of evolution to deal effectively with stress underscores that stress has been a facet of human existence for a while.
And yet, as ubiquitous as stress might be for an organism with the capacity for conscious thinking, stress is still a matter of perception. It is a reaction to the perception of threat to our being, regardless of whether a rabid dog is truly running us down or we think that we’re being followed down a dark stress. Either way, the heart starts to race, the breath quickens and shallows, and the neck and shoulder muscles tighten up. The extent to which stress is great or not depends on how much we are convinced of the reality of the threat.
One way to begin to address stress effectively is to check our assumptions. Are we jumping to conclusions? Are we reacting to reality, or are we reacting to our story of reality? Are we processing through what was said, or are we processing through what we think was said?
By checking our assumptions, we can begin to move from the stress of perceived threat to the peace of reality in the present moment.
One of the things I’ve discovered among those with whom I’ve provided spiritual counseling is the tendency to want to abandon human life. We cleave to the notion that we are “divine spirits living human lives.” And although I think this is true, I also think that we forget that we are incarnated. We have physical bodies. And by virtue of those physical bodies, we experience pain. We ache. We hurt. No amount of spiritual evolution will save us from this. Being human includes the inevitable suffering that our bodies and minds cause us.
Yes, strive to live a spiritual life. Strive to live a life anchored in our divine heritage. AND also strive to be a fully realized human. Strive to be completely in your body, in this present moment. For it is only in that place and in that time that we can access something greater.
One of the bodhisattvas that I most love is Quan Yin. Buddhist mythology holds that Quan Yin had an opportunity to achieve full enlightenment. Instead, she forwent enlightenment, saying that she would only cross that threshold when all beings have been freed from suffering. I’ve always seen this as the ultimate act of compassion. Yet, last night, I realized that for her to have achieved that level of compassion for others, she had to have shown the deepest compassion towards herself first.
In an age where we are attempting to do more, and therefore, have more things that we don’t get done, there are more opportunities for us to beat ourselves up. That’s when we need to show ourselves compassion.
The more I love about myself, the more of myself that I make available to others.