One of these days I’ll follow instructions better. Maybe.
The facilitators from the Center for Creative Leadership instructed our team to choose one of many photographs to serve as a metaphor of our current state of leadership. Naturally, I chose the wrong one because I didn’t follow instructions: I chose one that represented me five months ago. I chose a rugby scrum.
Five months ago, I was leading a nonprofit organization I had founded that had a staff of eleven. At 4:45 PM on July 3, all eleven of us received the same email from the small, 3-member board, terminating all our employment. Suddenly, I was a leader without anyone to lead – the solitary kayaker.
I’ve often wondered what leaders do when there is no one to lead. They disappear for a bit, then often reappear later refreshed and refocused. But what do they do in the meantime?
Here are a few things I’m learning:
• I have to lead myself first
- I was suddenly thrust into a crisis and the first person I have to lead through it is my self
- I ask myself, frequently, if I would be willing to follow me in a crisis
- I ask myself, “If I wasn’t me, what advice would I give me.”
• Examine what is important
- There is nothing like a crisis to clear out the clutter of non-essentials.
- With pen and paper in hand I wrote down life’s essentials again
• Take better care of me
- Leadership can be so other-focused that a person forgets to take care of his or her self.
- Physical Health – I eat better and get more exercise
- Spiritual health- I have found spiritual music, podcasts, and books very helpful
- Mental health- Studying and reading is powerful
- Invest in trusted relationships- crisis quickly clears the room of folks tagging along for self-interest
• Answer the hard questions truthfully
- To identify and admit areas in which I failed also helped me identify areas of success.
- Managing criticism
- Armchair quarterbacks, who have never quarterbacked, are quick to find fault.
- Learning to say, “Yep, I was wrong on this point,” also helped me to say, “Yeah, but I was right on that point.”
- When farmers have down time, they
- Sharpen their tools
- Grease the equipment
- Fix what’s broken
- Buy new equipment.
• Adjust my life plan
- I had a life plan that was tied too much to my organization. I have the chance to ask myself what I really want to do the rest of my life.
- Have more fun
- Deliberately positioning myself to enjoy life more.
• Live music
• Going dancing with my wife
• Playing with grandkids
• Fly-fishing (It had been over a year since I fly-fished- one of my favorite activities)
• Deliberately create
o Writing – I have written more in the last five months than the last three years
o Building heirlooms in my woodworking shop
o Photographic safaris
Have you ever found yourself as a leader with no one to lead? What lessons have you learned? Would you agree with me? I would love to hear your thoughts.