#125 Ones and Twos

"For the strength of the Wolf is the Pack, and the strength of the Pack is the Wolf."
Rudyard Kipling

The world is essentially broken down into 2 groups, leaders and followers. Number Ones and number Twos. In practical everyday terms, a lot of people are both. They are the leader of a group, but they are followers in some other larger group. I am a leader of an organization that is part of a larger organization which issues directives and policies for my smaller part. In that sense, I am a leader and a follower. And so isn't just about everyone else. But don't get wrapped up in that....that is mostly about titles and roles and positional requirements. We all live in that world. Contract the words just a little bit....See the idea of leadership and followership in a much much smaller and more focused way. See you.

True leadership and true followership is much more personal. Much more powerful and quite honestly, much more compelling to think about. It is a fundamental question. Which are you, a leader or a follower? What is your instinct? What does your core tell you each and every day? Which settles your heart in it's most comfortable place? To lead, or to follow? To be a One or a Two? Neither is better than the other, and both must have the other to survive, but there is a real and true difference. Recognizing that difference in yourself will have a lot to do with your personal happiness, and sense of peace in your life.

Leaders and followers both have an equally powerful place in the world and each must be respected for what they provide for the group, but the basic question still remains. Which place suits you more? To decide, to set the course, to lay out the direction and then see it through? To accept the risk of success and failure? To accept responsibility for both the gains and the shortcomings? To stand alone if necessary to see the mission accomplished? Is that your strongest instinct? Or are you more apt to let someone else do that? To work diligently and faithfully and completely, in support of someone else? To go to work each day only wanting to give everything you have in support of the mission or the plan? Taking complete pride and enjoyment and fulfillment that you contributed importantly to the success of the organization by supporting it's goals and by doing your part. Both are deserving of respect and appreciation and places of honor. One is not better than the other, they are different. They both work together to achieve something. It's the differences that must be sought out, understood, and valued.

The more I listen to my heart these days, the more junk I strip away and really look, the more one thing is becoming very abundantly clear to me. I am a leader. My gut tells me so. My instinct is to lead. To take charge. To accomplish. To decide, direct, and see through. To be a One. That is an elemental piece of who I am. Not boastful or arrogant, simply true. To be fair, I have fought against this for weeks now, trying to see myself as some sort of hybrid. Someone able to lead and follow. Someone comfortable in both places at the very personal level. I too, got wrapped up in the simplified definitions that I cautioned against above. I wasn't looking hard enough, carefully enough, small enough. It isn't true. You cannot at the most personal level live in two worlds like that. I have hidden and shied away from seeing myself as a leader, a One, for many years and tried to see myself as a faithful Two, but ultimately I cannot live that way anymore. My instinct is to lead. To plan and decide and delegate and accomplish. To see what needs to get done and why and then start doing it. And here's how I know....

I have been a complainer for most of my life. When I am not in charge or leading I become a blamer and a person who always thinks he knows better what should have been done and why. Someone who would criticize anyone and everyone else for they manner in which they tried to get something done. Always believing that "If they'd only done what I told them..." then everything would have worked out fine. Check out most of my early posts here and you will see that model outlined brilliantly. "The Army should do this..." "The Army got it wrong..." "The Army failed me..." etc etc etc. Post after post of that. And while most of the arguments have strong merit to them, that doesn't really mean anything. What does is that, I was always Monday morning quarterbacking. Railing against this or that policy or person or idea, but never really offering one of my own to replace it. Never saying, "Here is where I think there is a shortfall, and here is what I think we ought to do about it." I was backseat driving. Being that way, being a complainer and blamer here and in my personal life, made me bitter and spiteful and mean to others. Especially towards those closest to me. They have borne the brunt of this rather gutless mean-spiritedness and bitter derisiveness, and for that, I am truly sorry. It was unfair, unwarranted and inexcusable behavior. No one likes to be attacked harshly by someone who thinks they know better what should be done, but didn't have the guts to step in and take charge to do it. It is not my nature to be that way and when a friend of mine pointed that out, I couldn't understand it's genesis. Now, a little bit at a time, I do.

It has taken me awhile to see this part of me, and it is still uncomfortable territory in many ways, but the truth is that I am happiest, most content and most settled when I lead. Leading doesn't scare me. Hard choices don't bother me. Crisis don't worry me. I am pretty damn solid in the leader position. It is where I am most calm, and most content. In the heat of the moment, my world gets very still. Time slows down and things get pretty clear, pretty quickly.

It's when I am not leading that things start to get squirrely. When for one reason or another, I either willfully surrender my natural instinct to lead to someone else, or start acting untrue to myself to try to provide a position player as a Two for someone else. I have done both of these personally and professionally and in some cases, I got so used to doing it that I formed whole language and behavior patterns to support being a Two all the while harboring an internal anger, resentment, and belittlement of those who had to step up because I didn't or wouldn't follow my instincts.

A few weeks back, I received a note from someone who said he saw a lot of "Untapped potential in me...", and for a little bit that bugged me. I'm 43 years old for God's sake! How much potential could there be that hadn't been already tapped by a 22 year career? And truthfully, I have heard that before. That somehow, I still had more to offer. I would be doing everything I could to support the organization and help out others, but somehow there was still more to me that others were seeing but I was not. And then, with a lot of help and patience from a friend, it became clear to me. The 'untapped potential' was the part of me that was refusing or denying my natural instinct to lead. Always settling for being a Two instead of fulfilling my true nature and ability to lead.

There are a lot of reasons for my becoming this way, for pretending to be a good Two, when what I really am is a One, and honestly, none of them have any relevance here. What does though is that it has taken me a long time to see myself clearly and to accept myself and respect myself enough to say clearly, that I am designed to lead. That is what I am most comfortable doing. It is my nature to be this way. To not shy away from it anymore. To not be afraid to step up and do what I know is best. To accept my place at the table comfortably. To be authentically who I am, and stop role playing.

There is absolutely nothing wrong or less about being a Two either. Twos are really powerful people and actually are the folks who get things done. Twos make realities happen. They move entire organizations - even the Army - forward. Two's have an equally important seat at the table. Equal. That is critical to understand. Ones and Twos are equal. It is not a hierarchical totem pole with leaders at the top and followers at the bottom. It doesn't work that way. In the truest sense, Ones and Twos coexist in a harmony that cannot be replicated anywhere else. The Wolf needs the pack. For the Wolf to achieve everything he/she is capable of, to live up to their truest self, to fulfill their truest potential, they must have a Pack. And the Pack requires the Wolf. They must have him/her in equal measure to reach their full potential. There is a perfect harmony between them. It is a marriage. And the best and strongest marriages work when both people recognize, accept, and respect the natural role of their partner in their lives. Not asking them to be what they aren't and accepting completely what they are.

Last week I wrote about the language we use and the effect it has on our world. That's actually pretty important to this week too. I often use the negative, dismissive, derisive and belittling language of a Two who is secretly a One, and not living up to the responsibilities of accepting that place. As I move ahead, that language will change because I am no longer playing Monday morning quarterback. No longer sitting in judgment. No longer heckling the choices made when I wasn't making them myself. The language of judgement gets replaced by the language of leading. Positive, inclusive, respectful, purposeful and in many ways loving. Language that recognizes the inherent value of both leaders and followers, of One's and Two's. Language that recognizes and respects the harmony.

The only issue then is for each of us to take a square look in our hearts. To listen to our souls, and to search very hard for what speaks to us so loudly. The same ways that I was shown my true nature, the same questions that were asked of me, you can ask of yourself. Where is your true place? Where are you most fulfilled? I know now where mine is, and the acceptance of that has brought a peace and comfort to me that hasn't been present for a long time. Take the time to look hard at yourself, the journey is worth it and the place you end up may surprise you.

As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome.

#124 It's How You Say It

I learned a couple of incredibly valuable lessons this week, lessons that ultimately will rearrange a lot of how I think and interact with the people in my life. It has a ton to do with leadership too. The way a leader connects and communicates with those around them.

Have you ever thought about what you say and then how it is received? Ever actively considered how many times you decide things for others without their consent or even consultation, just by the language you use? Ever wondered if what you say to people even has any value to them? These are interesting questions to consider.

I found out this week through two different examples that most of the time when I say something, I have already assumed that my thoughts are more valid than the other persons. That my considerations and viewpoints are the only ones and that theirs are less valuable if they do not coincide with mine. The language I use, the way I stack words, the very order of them, is designed to do one thing only: validate my point to the exclusion of any other. It is a very limiting way of seeing my world.

I also found that I often use superior language that actually devalues the other person in the discussion. A phrase like,"You're right." can have two vastly different meanings. You probably mean, "I agree with you.", or "That's true.", but when you use, "You're right." what you are really saying is, "I am hereby validating your thought process and that you have a right to your own independent thoughts." The point being made is no longer being valued. What is, is the conference my approval on you. Because we happen to share a common opinion, I have now deemed you good and valid, which implies that if we had not agreed on the point that you would be less of a valid person because of our disagreement.

A leaders job is to accomplish something, a mission, a task, developing their subordinates, all of the above. That is what we do. We take our experience, our knowledge and our understandings and make the best decision we can using all of them and we communicate using language. We provide purpose and direction. We talk. We explain. We outline. We send a message. And most of us never consider the message we are sending. Is it one of inclusion or exclusion? Is it one of respect or belittlement? Is it one of value or judgment. Do we hear our subordinates, truly respect their inherent right to see their world independently from us, or do we unconsciously believe that we alone hold the keys to success and their point of view does not matter? Is it possible that someone could have an equally valid, and equally valuable viewpoint as we do? Hardly. We are the leader, they are the subordinate. By that measure alone, what we think and our interpretation of something is inherently more valuable than theirs is.

As I found out this week, my intentions and my actions, my thoughts and my words, my personal biases often get interpreted much differently by even those closest to me. And it is not their fault. The fault is mine. I am miscommunicating simply by the
way I speak.

My wife says, "I'd think we ought to...." I reply with, "Why? What good will that do?" By the time she has finished her statement, I have often times already formulated my reply. Never pausing long enough to even consider why or how she came up with her reasoning in the first place. Never considering that her point of view is as equally valuable as mine. Not respecting her enough to consider that her opposite view carries as much truth as mine does. What I have really said to her in that exchange is, "I don't value the way you think because it is not exactly the way I think." Very disrespectful and very limiting. It never even provides the opportunity for me to learn to see her completely because it already imposes my judgement. Even worse is when I simply assume and never even consider her ideas before acting.

Now it is not my intention to do this. I love my wife and respect her immensely. She is a strong, independent and smart woman. She is entirely capable of running our family and her world all on her own. She has her own points of view. I do not ever intend to belittle her. In fact, until it was pointed out to me by a friend of mine this week, I was never really aware that I was doing it at all. I only want the best for her and for my family. I only want to ensure that what we do, and how we do, it serves to enhance and grow and bring happiness and love to our house. The problem is that the words I choose and the manner I communicate often totally discounts that she wants exactly the same things as I do. I am too busy telling her my views or opinions to stop long enough to listen to hers.

And the Army is full of leaders like that. Full of people who love to hear themselves think and talk and tell you how it all works. There is their way of interpreting the Army and no one else's. We all know people like that. The guy or gal who walks around speaking in denigrating or belittling terms about everyone around them. Immediately discounting any other opinion or viewpoint except their own. The more senior they are, the more prevalent it becomes. They never take a moment to pause long enough to even consider that someone else's view is as equally valid and as equally true as their own. Most of us can easily recognize that trait in others. As I found out this week though, it is immensely difficult to see it in ourselves. Quite clearly, it is a lesson I needed to learn.

The language you use as a leader is critically important to the success of your organization. By listening and respecting the views of those around you, by using inclusive rather than exclusive language, you can demonstrate that each Soldier is inherently valuable. That we, each one of us, have our own point of view, our own understanding, our own interpretation of all that we see. By learning to suspend our own filters and really listen, we get a much more concrete picture of the situation or problem we face. We also get the opportunity to really know who are Soldiers are. What they value. What matters to them. Why they see their world the way they do. All of these things are important leader tools. It's not whether I think something is important or not, it's whether my Soldier does. It's not whether I think the Soldier's issue amounts to a crisis, it's whether they do.

We talk about respect all the time in the Army. We talk about dignity and respect. And we all swear that we treat Soldiers that way. That we treat the people in our lives that way. That we value them and care for them and hold them in high regard. As I learned this week though, often times, the very way we communicate with them, the way we share ideas, is sending a wholly different message. We may be acting out of love and care and a desire for the best outcome. But what we are often saying is exactly the opposite.

To change the way I communicate will not come easily. Just being aware of it this week has shown me how often it appears in my interactions. It is a hard habit to break. But breaking it, really considering the thoughts, ideas, and value of others is something we all need to learn to do. I am only sorry it took me this long to figure it out.

As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome.