I’ve been thinking a lot about leadership these days. And if you’re wondering how I define that, it’s quite simple, actually. I’m not talking about a position, title, authority or anything formal. For me, it’s not about skill sets, degrees, credibility or even experience.
I define leadership as how you choose to show up in this world—do you actively engage and participate in our evolution and courageously hold space for the conversations of our time? Or do you wait for someone else to do it?
What I am actively calling forth through my work in the world and how I choose to show up to that call myself is leadership that defies convention. Leadership that dares to be different, audacious enough to make bold (even unpopular) moves, and doesn’t wait to be all spit-shined and polished before it’s offered to our world. Leadership that brings with it a value of humility, a robust curiosity, and a desire to hold multiple truths at once.
Leadership that recognizes the need to reimagine a world beyond familiar paradigms and existing frameworks.
So often, when we are told or taught about leadership, we hear about “the way” it is or “the way” it’s done. That is the traditional mindset, sure, and there are loads of historical references we could cite to back that up as true. But what if that were only half the story?
What if THE way to lead weren’t the ONLY way? What would that mean for our world? Good things, I imagine.
And now, in this time of deep transition where the fabric of “normal” has been ruptured, maybe it’s the perfect time to find out.
I wrote about this in my most recent book, Ignite: Lighting the Leader Fire. And then the pandemic hit, and the fires raged, and the racial unrest woke up a nation to itself—and demanded a conversation, ready or not.
And here we are. Poised between two worlds, some of us waiting, holding our breath, others of us laboring, blowing on the embers of change to keep them alive.
Where will we end up? We don’t know. That’s the humility part.
But I do know this: it has something to do with the “other” way of leading—the one that lives at the margins, and is talked about when times get desperate and we’re weary enough to try something…new and different.
The cool thing is? We already have the resources in us—they’ve just been hiding in plain sight waiting for this upside-down moment in time to be revealed.
Below is an excerpt from my most recent post on the “other way” and what that looks like to me. If you’d like to read the full post, you can read it here. Or, if you’d like to hear me reading it to you, scroll down to the bottom of my full blog post for a recording and I’ll join you on your next walk.
When I was a little girl, I used to loll on my bed looking up at the ceiling when I was supposed to be getting ready for school. I used to wonder about things, looking up at that blank expanse of nothingness, untainted by nail holes, fingerprints, or scuff marks.
I wondered what it would be like if the whole house were upside-down.
I imagined what it would be like to walk on the ceilings and step up over a little bit of wall to cross over into another room and curl up around a skylight and be closer to the moon.
I thought of this the other day when a client of mine shared a picture of the most breathtakingly beautiful Christmas tree she’d seen on Instagram. She described an evergreen tree that had been tipped upside down, exposing its vast intact root ball, which made it look like the roots were growing up toward the ceiling. Instead of decorating the boughs of the evergreen, the roots were decorated with lights and bejeweled ornaments and tinsel, all in gold and silver and red.
She marveled at how something so beautiful could be hidden in plain sight, until someone thought to turn everything upside down.
That’s the power of bringing some light and attention to what is often not seen because it’s hidden below ground. It rounds out our perspectives, making us see the other half of the whole. It removes the blinders that have been keeping us and our vision for what’s possible smaller than we are.
Think of a plant that stays a bit too long inside its pot at a greenhouse, one of the ones that don’t get taken home and planted in someone’s garden. Eventually, its root system overtakes the soil, which has no nutrients left, and the flowers fall away, the leaves start to yellow, and consumers pass it by, calling it worthless, unhealthy, and dying.
That plant never had a chance to bloom.
What if we are where we are because we’re root-bound, having been stuck in the same pot for too long?
Want to read more or hear me read the post? Click here to read the full post and access the audio recording.
Are you a subscriber to these posts? Become one today—it’s super easy and comes with a free gift!—and they’ll arrive right to you inbox every Friday. Look for the red box all over my website to enter in your email or click here for more information about what’s in it for you.