There are two different but related things nudging at my brain this week, and I need to get them out on the page and kick them around a little bit. I really don't know where they will lead me, but like most weeks I always end up where my brain and my heart need to be, so I'm just going to write and see what happens....
The first is part of a response from a colleague of mine on an Army forum called Leader Net. RS introduced me to Leader Net and was influential in getting me a place there for my work. In his reply to a question entitled, "Who's Example do You Follow?" he wrote:
"I no longer consider leadership the mere ability to influence a group of people to "accomplish the mission" because the mission may not always lead the people in a constructive direction. Such an approach to leadership is little more than Machiavellian manipulation that may succeed in a temporary mechanical efficiency but ultimately sows discontent and anger once the true motive is revealed."
" There comes a point when a leader's job is greater than simply keeping our 'eye on the prize,' showing empathy/sympathy, or being the example the organization expects us to be. There comes a point in time when a leader must be willing to stand and say no."
"Leadership must stand on behalf of those it leads. It must not merely acknowledge truth, it must speak it to power. It must inspire people from within for the betterment of themselves and others. True inspirational leadership articulates a higher vision, evokes a deeper meaning, and demands the absolute best from both the led and the power it challenges."
The second is from the Servant Leadership Blog and is an adaptation of a presentation given by Will Keepin in 2009. The post is called the "Principles of Spiritual Leadership" and the second principle is the following:
"Non-attachment to outcome. To the extent that we are attached to the results of our work, we rise and fall with our success and failures, which is a path to burnout. Failures are inevitable, and successes are not the deepest purpose of our work."
What struck me about both of these inputs is that they require something even more fundamental on our part in order for both to be true. They require a full, deep, complete, and comfortable understanding of ourselves. The require an acceptance and recognition of who we are. They require a detachment from the bonds of simple labeling and expectation. They require us to live fully and completely and faithfully to who we are. They require us to accept ourselves honestly - speak our power and goodness with the same ease and recognition of the truth as we accept our failings and weaknesses. They require the most truthful and authentic parts of us be known to us.
Leadership cannot be tied only to a measurable metric. That is not leadership, it is management. It is a model of efficiency and production. It merely requires a person who can figure out the need and then produce the most effective way to fill it. You are not leading if that is your purpose. To simply build a better mousetrap. That definition is much too limited and leadership is something much more than mission accomplishment by providing purpose and direction and vision for the organization.
Leadership is something more than the way you treat people. It is more than the ability to be kind or understanding or fair or just or nice. Those things will make for a happy and content workplace most of the time, but they are only methods, a way, of expressing yourself. They are not, in and of themselves, leadership. Empathy and sympathy are powerful and effective tools that all leaders possess, but their exercise is not leadership. Their exercise, in most cases, is behavior manipulation.
Leadership is more than the ability to say no. There are a million people running around who are saying no to a lot of things right now. A very tiny portion of them are leaders. Most are simply arguing for their way of thinking. Defending or protecting themselves against change and perceived threats to their way of life and thinking.
As my journey has progressed and I have uncovered and looked at myself I have found that almost every definition of leadership I can find falls somehow short of the mark. Is in ways large or small, incomplete for me. And I started to wonder why. And slowly, sometimes painfully slowly, it has occurred to me that leadership is being yourself so much that who you are totally disassociated from the outcomes, or the consequences, or the judgments, or the comparisons and stand fully and totally and completely in who you are. It is a faith that you can discover and live authentically at all times. It is a letting go of worry and fear, and a thoughtful consideration of why you act, feel, behave and see the world the way you do. It is deciding for yourself what is right and wrong, good and bad, comfortable and uncomfortable for you. It is an acceptance of yourself that is free of anyone else's judgment. It is the strength to stand alone and the strength to empower others to do the same. It is trusting your soul completely. And then living in accordance with it.
I have been also been thinking about love a lot lately. Love is an abstraction that is personal to each of us. It cannot be defined and must be taken on faith. We each see it and feel it in our own unique way. You cannot say to someone, "I love you." and have them feel it in precisely the way you feel it. It is ethereal and present everywhere at the same time. It is the ability to transcend behavior and emotion and day-to-day and see something more. It is not the words or the actions, it is the depth and measure of you that fills them. When you tell someone you love them you are choosing to give yourself completely and openly to them. It is beyond definition and beyond decision and beyond reason and words. Love is the power of being, and force of being, completely you. Love is not attached to the outcome or the payback or the comparative return. It is not open to judgment.
Love and leadership seem much the same to me right now. Both are bigger than the small words used to describe them. Both defy quantification or comparison and complete definition. Both are as unique as the person who is loving or leading. Both evoke feelings of empowerment in others and the fullest expression of us in ourselves. Both can never be tied to measurable outcomes. To be successful, both must be given with every ounce of us that we have. They both demand living and giving completely, with all of our energy, passion and force. You cannot define leadership simply by the metric of numeric success or efficiency. Nor can you define love by some barter system of give and take. You cannot define yourself or your leadership by success or failure anymore than you can define your love by good days and bad days. True love and true leadership both generate from the most authentic sense we have of ourselves. The purity and fearlessness and force of who we are. The complete awareness that to lead purely and to love purely we must know and follow our heart, our instinct, our most pure selves. To lead completely I have to open myself up completely to my authentic self and then give all of that, every ounce of my authenticity, someone else. Funny thing is, we have to do the same to those we love.....
People have commented to me that at some point the blog moved away from leadership and moved down another path to self-awareness. That once I stopped talking about the Army leader development model or complaining about this or that part of the Army, that it ceased to be a leadership blog and started to become an online diary of sorts. Those people are wrong. My journey has always been about leadership. Those who sell it short or do not understand it are getting caught up in the management model we sell. My journey of self-discovery is a journey of love for me and for those who love me, but it is also an important journey in leadership as well. I cannot lead and love others if I cannot lead and love myself. The journey is leadership. By searching for and discovering and loving my authentic self, I am able to step fully into leading as well.
It is often said that to lead them you must love them. And that is true. You must lead them with the same intensity, the same passion, the same completeness - with every ounce of the power of love that you have. In order to lead big, you must love big. Keep searching for love and you will inevitably find how to lead.
As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome.