More Than We Thought We Could Be
We like to believe the leadership mythology we have created. It is easy for us to think leaders are like superheroes.
Our myths are filled with leaders whose hidden skills emerge when we most need them. It is almost as if we believe our leaders have secret identities and super powers. The valiant leader steps forward into the light fully formed when the time is right.
We separate ourselves from the superheroes hiding among us. While it might be fun to pretend to be like them, do we really have super powers?
I see leadership differently. Leaders are not superhuman, distinct from the rest of us. People do not become leaders because they have special powers or wear a cape. Leadership does not come from being stronger than normal people.
We do not become leaders because we have a particular title or certain responsibilities.
I believe everyone has the potential to be a leader.
Leaders inspire us to become more than we thought we could be. The leaders who inspire me see things about me that other people have not. They recognize qualities in me even I have not appreciated in myself and help me develop them.
Leadership is not like magic. We work hard at leadership, practicing it every day. Our leadership helps bring out the best in other people. Other people’s leadership gives us opportunities to become more than we thought we could be.
For many of us, the most difficult obstacle our leadership needs to overcome is within ourselves. As we practice leadership we begin to recognize how far it can take us.
Our leadership inspires us as much as it inspires anyone else. Leadership opens our eyes to what we could become.
How does leadership work in our lives?
Becoming Aware of Who We Are
We see our leadership reflected back to us in every person we meet. Each person helps us recognize the difference we make in the world.
The more aware we become of ourselves, the more aware we can be of the world around us.
The differences we see between people are part of our leadership mythology of the world. The fact is that each person we meet has lessons to teach us. They may not be lessons we are eager to learn, but they are lessons for us all the same.
It takes us time to appreciate and understand what other people are telling us. We need to listen and reflect on the lessons they have to teach us.
Many of us are too busy distracting ourselves to be aware of the life around us. Some of us are afraid of what people might have to tell us. Pain from our past may discourage us or tire us out.
We close ourselves off from the wisdom of other people, wrapping ourselves in what we think we already know.
Closing ourselves off from other people may be the opposite of leadership. We keep ourselves from learning from them and ensure they will learn less from us.
When we do not allow ourselves to see through other people’s eyes we limit our view of the world. It is as if we are looking out through the tiny pinhole of our own perspective.There is so much of which we are not allowing ourselves to become aware.
When we stubbornly hold onto what we think we already know we are unable to receive any new insights. We are convinced we already understand and do not need to recognize what we have not yet learned.
Becoming More Than We Thought We Could Be
Our awareness shapes our potential. How we see ourselves and other people guides the ways in which we grow and learn.
The simple act of pausing to take a few minutes each day to breathe helps us become aware.
Monks I know inspire and shape my leadership. Our monastic community fills my awareness even when I am not with them physically.
Monks take time each day to reflect and contemplate the world around them. Over the weeks and years they become aware of things the rest of us generally miss.
Following their example teaches us how to become more than we thought we could be.
Leaders, and monks, are not merely people who make us feel better about ourselves. They open our eyes to the potential we have to make a difference in the world.
The differences we make in the world around us grow out of how we change within ourselves. Our potential to influence change gives us responsibility for how we decide to behave. We take time to pay attention and reflect, from which we gain questions and insights. Our insights and questions shape our actions in the world.
How we pay attention creates the map of who we can become. The questions we ask and insights we gain open our eyes. We can begin becoming more than we thought we could be.
Beyond Our Limitations
We limit ourselves and the people around us by how we understand our lives. Our own refusal to recognize what is possible restricts our leadership in the world.
As we take time each day to reflect and pay attention we change our view of ourselves in the world. Pausing to take a new look brings the world into focus in new ways.
Practicing leadership like a monk transforms the way we understand leadership.
We begin to appreciate leadership as it works outside the myth we have constructed.
Our leadership is not about secret identities and super powers. The way we lead transforms how people, including us, see leadership.
We are not waiting to for a superhero to come and rescue us. Each of us has the potential to lead together.
Life is an opportunity to become even more than we thought could be.
How are we becoming more than we thought we could be today?
Where are you seeing who you can be in new ways this week?
[Image by The Nick Page]
Greg Richardson is a spiritual life mentor and leadership coach in Southern California. He is a recovering attorney and university professor, and a lay Oblate with New Camaldoli Hermitage near Big Sur, California. Greg’s website is StrategicMonk.com, and his email address is StrategicMonk@gmail.com.