By Diane Moore
A definition of leadership is emerging in my thinking based on several recent encounters with leaders who might not think of themselves as such.
I began graduate school at LIOS in part because I was inspired by a few graduates who awoke in me a sense of “I want that!” They had some way of being I could not articulate. They were powerful and vulnerable at the same time. They spoke about things that I did not know people could speak about in a workplace, like trust and care. It is only after several years that I now realize what I recognized in them. The “that” which I wanted was leadership. They spoke about what mattered to them. And that mattered.
As I watch my thoughts on leadership develop, I encounter my old definition of leadership. My story was something involving a charismatic person in a position of authority: presidents and CEOs, executives and inspiring political organizers. I think we could all name several of these types of leaders.
This story is transforming into recognition that a leader is a person, any person, who is deeply in tune with what arises in them and brings it forward into the world. Leadership is that simple. The complexity, if there is any, is getting out of my own way; to allow that which arises in me to have voice in the world. Even if it is not what is expected of me; even if it does not please the people around me; and maybe most importantly, even if it surprises me, I must not abandon authenticity for consistency.
Three experiences in particular have emboldened this emerging notion.
I had the honor of listening to seven colleagues present their practitioner theories shortly before we graduated. We each took a stand for what we believed characterizes healthy organizations and to present our individual theories of organizational change, influenced by other theorists we had encountered. I grew increasingly more inspired as each person spoke. When a person stands energetically in what is true and meaningful and important to them, even while making space for others’ truths, they are leading. They are inspiring. They are electric.
I had a similar experience with a client group about the same time. I worked with a nonprofit staff and board of directors while they brainstormed ideas for fundraising. As people began to speak from the intersection of their passion for various activities combined with their deep love for the organization, they each became alive. The room filled with leaders who tuned in to the passions arising in them, brought them forward and created movement where there had been stuckness. I wanted to follow each one of them. Each one of them was a leader, inspiring the others to connect to the possibilities that were flowing through the room.
The third experience that fueled my thinking was a telephone call with a potential new business colleague. He introduced himself as a learner; not a consultant, not an organization development professional, but as a learner. He did not shower me with the facts and figures of his expertise, although considerable. He spoke about a potential client project as a learning opportunity for him, for the organization and possibly for me. He also shared some of his vulnerability with me, aspects of consulting work where he was not as strong. But rather than framing those as a deficit, he was simply sharing the self-awareness that informs the kinds of business partners he seeks. I entered the conversation somewhat prepared to rattle off my “creds” and sell myself. Instead it turned into a conversation of mutual learning about one another, our passions and our theories for what supports healthy change in organizations. The way he came forward with what was authentic for him was an act of leadership, and I followed, by revealing my own strengths and vulnerabilities with him.
These encounters in short succession led me to write. I created a blog site several months prior, but felt I needed to have something polished and worthy to say before I published. I was pre-managing expectations of potential clients and colleagues. One of the many things I do is teach social media classes, and I am well aware that anything we shout to the world atop our highly-discoverable electronic soapbox can take on a life of its own and “brand” us. What if my personal brand is a person who expresses authentically both her strengths and vulnerabilities? What if this also creates space for others to do the same? What if I trust that what arises in me is something that wants to be said in the world? This is leadership.
Find out more about Diane at www.diane-moore.com