By Peter Burchard
Pummeled by the barrage of leadership skills – infatuated with the belief that there is more – perhaps that one elusive skill or habit that will create in me new heights of wisdom and decisions – leading of course to my egoic exaltation matched closely by the admiration of peers and crowds. Perhaps I will then be called a servant leader?
One insight I have haunts me. I detect that ordinary people are not inclined toward admiration of higher-ups. In public they clap and smile. But they see differently. They see shallowness, selfishness, emptiness and hopeless messiness. They are the unengaged. These people, these crowds – this majority – they are aware. They know. They seek no personal lift or acquisition of the countless traits and habits that leaders treasure. Mostly, they just want to work. They understand purpose differently. Their life is often interrupted by the leaders.
These bodies clash. The superiors insist they know how to lead and manage. They explain things – like why subordinates resist. Small explanations. The others say, but just to each other, “We don’t need or want or enjoy your higher level skills. We seek what you never seem to do.” What’s with that?
Is the perpetual pursuit of leadership skills a fantasy – created by others who pursue the same? The chasm between leaders and the led grows wider. The separatists want to explain. Their cottage industry is failing.
I challenged me, I challenged me not. She leaned in, she leaned in not. Vassals to a lesser self. Of mind, of possibility, of work.
You already know the truth. There will be no rescue. No leadership bailout. Someone new may take over at work. You may change jobs. That’s about it. The past remains, or so it seems, in newish forms. Millennials are as disappointed as retirees.
Possibility and Courage
There can be but one beginning – when will we see the miracle of being present from dust to dust. Such perfect inevitability. Such is our charge – our only path – our defining self. To see what is so beautiful, so obvious and so deeply perfect. Between dust and dust is the miracle, the joy of being alone.
How simple – a heightened sense of purpose and possibility because you are, I am, alone. No certifications. No textbook. No seminars. No persuasion. Just alone. Your courageous choice is to be as your surroundings are – as others wish you to be, or to decide differently.
Courage is real. Having courage is absolute. You don’t have to find it. You have to respond to it. You have to want it. You have to ignite it. If you prefer, courage will go away and stop bothering you, eager to come back when you’re ready. Perhaps once you’re fed up with the failures that have accompanied its docile state. The use of your courage is your call. Something to do between dust and dust.
Courage is summoned when you are alone. You wake up to you. When courage is used, you know you have appeared. When you ignore your courage, you know this too; just differently. With courage, you, deeply you, comes front and center. You speak, gain energy, not from a new place but from a place you always knew. Your thoughts are clear. Your plans are remarkable. You don’t repeat what’s old. A wrong is corrected. A new opinion is given. A thought is shared. A problem is solved. And nobody judges. No eyes role. Participation and contribution happen. There might be smiles.
If judgement occurs, if you are ignored, if eyes role, more courage will be needed – in that precise moment. Prove you are a human – speak up. “I’d like us to talk about what I said.”
(Courage, you know, has a switch; not a rheostat. You may turn it on or off. You now see how prior attempts to control or vary your resistance to courage meant its disappearance.)
Saying “yes” to courage transforms your sight and insight, where you ponder differently- seeing and deciding with courage.
- Encourage your inner courage. Read stories about courage. Study how and why some said don’t launch the Shuttle Challenger while leaders said go.
- Consider the events in your life where you need to live courageously. In a meeting? Dealing with someone? A challenge you have put off? A habit that must stop.
- Jump in. First, there is the courage to fully resist the comfort and rationalization you may have felt from prior silence. Put off the comfort of believing that silence is golden. This is a devilish lie. Silence will keep you from knowing and being you. Second, switch on the courage to do what’s at hand – what you are facing and what you need to do or say. You act now. You speak. You decide differently.
- What about the cost…the risk…the rationalizations? Exactly. You now see courage differently. What will you do? Others will recall with chagrin the last time their lips moved. This is the crowd you once belonged to. They need you as you need you.
- Your life will change. You will be seen differently. Your narrative is renewed. You will grow and mature.
Bring your courage to others in the workplace. Your light is needed.