The Courage to Lead: I’m Still a Work in Progress, Always Will Be.

For a long time I was reluctant to engage in certain forms of leadership. The straight business side, such as goal setting, planning, and directing were always relatively easy for me. It was on the deeper side, the spiritual side, the inspirational side, that I always tended to shy away from.

I did not want to disappoint anyone. I did not want to appear to be a hypocrite, saying one thing and doing another. I did not want to espouse ideals that I did not fully live up to. I was so very aware of how easy it is to piously mouth noble thoughts and then repeatedly fail to live up to them. And I also was aware that while principles are often simple in theory, the application of principles in the real world can be knotty and reasonable people can differ (see “Defining Moments: When Managers Must Choose Between Right and Right,” by Joseph L. Badaracco, Jr.).

Furthermore, I knew that even when one tries to do one’s best, one does not always deliver the desired result. All too often in my own organization, I’ve not been overly pleased with some outcome and looked for answers only to find that the inputs/effort were intelligent, well thought out, and aimed at the right target. Somehow life happened and the only thing to do was learn from the experience, refine the process, and try again smarter and wiser.

I know that we frequently judge ourselves by our best intentions regardless of how things turn out. And we sometimes judge others by our fearful interpretations of the results of their actions, even when it is possible that their intentions were better or different from the actual outcome.

I responded to my fears by keeping a low profile in some respects, avoiding certain areas of leadership. I finally decided that I was serving no one by thinking small, not myself, not my organization, not my community. I needed to “screw my courage to the sticking point” and step out there.

I’ve still a long way to go. I sent out an epistle the other day and I had a great learning opportunity when someone close to me said, “But you don’t do that!”. I replied, “Well, I’m trying to. I guess I’m not succeeding as well as i would like. Tell me what I’m doing wrong or not doing right?”

We ended up having a great discussion and I learned a lot. But most important I’ve learned to be comfortable saying, “I’m not perfect, doubt I ever will be.” I’m satisfied if every day I go out there and try to be better than the day before.

And if I’d not sent out that statement of principle, if I had not made public my inspirational goals, my growth targets, then I would not have had that terrific growth feedback.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We are born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us, it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

— Marianne Williamson, “Return to Love”