#151 Look In the Mirror and Listen

The new year is always time when people start to reflect on where they are and what happened in the past 12 months and what they hope to have happen in the coming year. Mot of us make resolutions to change this, or adjust that and promise ourselves that we will make a more concerted effort to do X or Y this year and then for the for the most part it dies away in the next couple weeks after the euphoria of the holidays wears off. Maybe some tinkering around the edges, but nothing substantive.

But occasionally something different happens. Sometimes you are just travelling along your path and in an instant, or the turn of a phrase, something seems to fall into place, another layer of film gets removed, and the picture becomes much clearer. Then your resolution has a chance.

This past week my leadership style and the core behaviors that make up who I am as a man came together in a perfectly clear way. Who I am as a person came into perfect concert with how I best lead. Instead of being aware of a title, or a label or a set of responsibilities etc, there was a seemelss feel that who I am is so inherently connected to how I lead that I could not feel any separation between the two. You could not have one without the other. You could not have the Jeff without the recognizing the Leader, and you don't get to the Leader without having Jeff. I was leading from my core.

What became clear to me is that I lead best by calm and reason and patience. I lead best by meeting you where you are, and moving you where I need you to go. Where the organization needs to be. Yelling, screaming, dictatorial leadership models don't work for me. Might sound really cool on tv, but it doesn't work for me.

It is really important to recognize and figure out how you lead so that you don't end up just play-acting. So that your leadership is you writ large. It's not a title - 'Leader' - it's who you are. Your leadership is one of the many parts of your core. This may seem apparent to a lot of people, but I assure you it's not. If it were, we wouldn't have 8 zillion books printed about leadership. We would simply teach people to recognize and listen to their truest selves. To accept themselves as whole and complete. As a palette of infinite colors. People would stop buying the next self-help book and learn to see themselves accurately.

Those are two big paragraphs actually. The first a recognition that I am not a typical or even a prototypical Army leader. That I am unique. And that uniqueness stems solely from who I am. As a person, as a man, as a Soldier, husband, father. Not some cardboard caricature creation pumped out by a leadership school to look exactly like every one who has come before. No. I am uniquely me. My truest leadership flows from a calm and centered place that is at the core of me. The essence of me is the essence of my leadership. Discovering, uncovering, finding, naming, understanding...all of those things that it took for me to see me are also the exact things it takes to see my leadership. I have mentioned over and over that we need to turn the leadership model inward. I am right. I will be a better leader in 2012 than I ever have been because I am a better man. Not because I went to a class or took a new job or got a new title. I will be a better leader because I have found a core truth.

That core truth is simple. I am most comfortable when I am in charge. I can certainly follow someone else's lead, and will gladly do so when I really recognize that they, too, are operating from a place of pure clarity, but it is not my natural place in the Universe. My natural place is to lead. Not in a dictatorial manner, but lead nonetheless. I prefer to guide and teach. Calm and focused on the outcome. I am patient and willing to listen and be flexible. Focused and not easily distracted by the small things. I want you to grow. I am willing to hear your ideas. I want to share ownership. There are times when I need to step in directly and firmly and without equivocation or debate, but they are rare and not generally my style. I will listen and hear and consider, but ultimately, I will decide.

2011 was an incredible year for me. I transformed my entire life. Literally. There is not one aspect of it that wasn't pulled apart and studied and adjusted. Not a stone left unturned. And on New Year's Eve, the only thing I could find to make a resolution about is to listen very closely to those core things that make me, me. And to never waiver, apologize, nor forget the essence of who I am. If I can do that then I lead from a place of comfortable peace. That should be our goal.

Sometime during the last year, I came across the following quote:

"To be nobody but yourself in a world that is doing it's best to make you like everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight and to never stop fighting."

e. e. cummings

So here is my first post of 2012. I would like to invite you to fight too. Take a look in the mirror and listen.