What Great Leaders Do First (Part 4)

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What others happen to think of us is largely insignificant. What really matters is the view that we take of ourselves, and the clarity of purpose that this contributes to. This, the leader keeps in mind, as they go about the task of initiating service oriented action. Desiring to deliver something of real substance and quality, they know that this requires vulnerability and a willingness to risk. Courage, in this respect, is putting ourselves at the heart of what we do, and accepting unconditionally that we may fail, be ridiculed or tuned out by some people.

Each of these things are possibilities, but they do not have to infect our mindset around that which we do. Failure is not a death sentence. Neither is the feedback that others offer us. Coming with the territory of bringing our calling to market, these challenging influences are the fertile soil on which we can grow our fellowship. Opportunities for refinement of our character and contribution, they are not to be squandered by the leader who has yet to realise their vision.

A chief imperative, despite these happenings, is not to compromise the integrity of our offering. One of the things that distinguishes followers from leaders is the former’s overriding desire to appease the populous. Wanting to be seen in a favourable light by as many people as possible, they compromise themselves by catering to the various, and frequently competing, needs and expectations of the tribe. Diminishing the power of their gifts, their utility is limited when compared to the novel contribution that is offered by the true leader.

Here, I am not imploring you to be close-minded or inflexible. A genuine leader is always willing to listen to followers and receive their input. Rather, I am emphasising the importance of adding value by being real. I could try to be the next Anthony Robbins or Paulo Coelho, but that would only diminish the quality of my offering. Taking energy away from my unique talents and experiences, they would not be given the space to influence others hearts and minds, if I was trying to hide from my audience by being someone that I am not. In the wise words of Andre Gide, “It is better to be hated for who you are, than loved for who you are not”.

Leadership in its finest form should be disruptive, not just to effect change, but to stoke the fire of reality. All too often, we grow comfortable in knowing what to expect from our leaders, and this coupled with their lack of authenticity, robs them of the power to inspire their constituents, and bring through new leaders by their example. Not affecting any dissonance between where we are and where we want to be, an opportunity is wasted to forge a connection with the spirit within that yearns to evolve and be moved by a vision that it can trust.

Missing this element of connection, leadership will fail to serve its true function. The quality of someone’s leadership will always be determined by the quality of their relationship with spirit, and those people who have chosen to follow them. Endowed with free will, we are not forced into fellowship. The emphasis then falls on the leader to form constructive and rewarding relationships with followers. This takes time, effort and selfless humility. The most effective leader is the other oriented leader. A style of leadership that turns the tables on traditional leadership thinking, it sees the leader as a facilitator of their followers flourishing.

Requiring the leader to put the needs of their followers above their own, it is not a style of leadership that the ego can accept or find a voice in. Demanding an arrangement that sees followers exhaust themselves for its aggrandisement, the emphasis of the ego here is not on serving, but on being served. Practicing this self-centred form of leadership, we demonstrate to the world that we are not on good terms with ourselves.


Enabling the Acorn to Flourish (Part 3)

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Fixing our mind on that which we believe will be our crowning glory, it is easy to lose sight of what is really important. So many valuable relationships are discarded or irreparably harmed because ambition is prioritised above love and authenticity. We live in a society that is obsessed with celebrity. We see other people getting attention for what they are doing, and we want the same thing for ourselves. Becoming blind to the substance of our own acorn in this process, we try to climb the oak that the success of these famous people symbolises to us.

Why this poses a risk to our fulfilment is because their competencies may be very different from our own, and even if we have the same or similar talents to these people, we may be called to use them in alternate ways. Just because I have the same gift as Dostoyevsky or Jane Austen, does not mean that I am called to write as they did. Trying to emulate their work would prove futile for me because I can only write about what my lived experience and learning has taught me. Why their work was so profound in their impact was because they were unique and genuine representations of their spirits, and how they interacted with the physical world. Not fighting against the natural pull of their respective acorns, the oaks of these two literary giants were allowed to flourish in beautifully original ways.

So many of us fail to exemplify the best version of ourselves because we expend too much of our energy trying to be like those people who we emulate. Wanting to live in their shadow, we dim our own light that is not afraid of being exposed to the harsh winds of criticism, and the other tests of time. Following in the footsteps of others who appear to be ‘successful’ is not as prosperous a course as our ego would hope, and taking this course is particularly damaging when our motive for doing so is to hide from the essential truth of who we are.

To my heart and mind, the risk of living to conform is much greater than the risk involved in living our highest life. Being on the receiving end of the critical opinions of others and failing or losing face occasionally is not that bad when compared to a life that is lived in a psychic/spiritual straightjacket and a padded cell. While the latter requires us to forfeit our freedom and sanity, enduring the former calls us to demonstrate resilience, courage, patience and perspective. Being virtues that fortify our will and character, they are the building blocks to the richest form of life that our spirit aspires to.

What others have to say about us or our efforts does not have to define us. We can choose to absorb it, or we can choose to ignore it. As it pertains to the actualisation of our innate potential, these external utterings are mostly irrelevant, and we should not hold the voices of the world in a higher regard than the voice of spirit that is alive within us. Directing the way to our highest flourishing is our intuition, which speaks with an authoritative wisdom that has to be trusted. Too often we doubt the legitimacy of this guidance and abandon it in favour of the opinions and judgments of others because that is what our social norms have conditioned us to do.

The people who are closest to us, in particular family and friends, are rarely shy in offering suggestions as to who we should be or what we should do. Feeling liberated to offer their input because of the proximal relationship that they enjoy with us, it is in our response to their advice that we must exercise caution. Allowing it to direct our course for the future, the integrity of our purpose is compromised, and we languish in the pursuit of something that is meaningless to us. Just like we can never be someone else, and do all that they have done, so can we never realise a vision that is foreign to our heart. Try as we might, our vain efforts will be met with resistance from worldly forces and attendant frustration. While our ego may curse this happening, the blessing that the opposition provides is the opportunity to turn inward and recalibrate, so that our movements forward can be informed by intuition and taken firmly in faith.