The Reluctant Leader:
Leading with love, desire… and dogs
At last month’s breakfast, I hosted a conversation about speaking up and expressing our truths. At several points in our discussion, I felt a particular need to speak up – for example, to shift the focus away from someone who’d been talking a long time, to ask someone a question, or to take the conversation in a new direction. As ‘leader’ and host, I felt it was my responsibility.
However, late in our meeting, I blurted out my own truth: “I hate leading groups,” I said. “I hate having to intervene or direct or interrupt. I’d much rather just listen and be one of the participants.” And at the end of our conversation, someone said: “Next month, let’s talk about leadership.” (It turns out she has some similar issues/feelings about running groups.)
What does it “leadership” or “leading” mean... to you?
Suppose we go beyond the traditional view of “leaders” as being only those people ‘at the top,’ in high positions or leading large numbers of people. Instead, let’s think of leadership as ‘stepping forth’: Taking risks in our work/life. Doing what we haven’t done before. Accepting responsibility. Leading by example. Or doing what we feel called to do or be in the world.
There are many places in life where I ‘naturally lead.’ I put forth many of my ideas quite openly. I speak up, initiate new conversations and projects fairly readily, and challenge authority where it feels right. But then there are some areas – like directing/managing groups, sharing some of my core spiritual ideas and beliefs, or speaking readily with strangers – where I hold back.
So what about you? What does “leading” mean to you, and how readily do you take on that role?
Now consider a few specific questions about where you are right now.
1) Is there some work or activity you feel called to initiate, or ‘bring into the world’… or someone you need to say something to? How do you feel about doing so?
2) Is there something you’d love to do, but can’t quite give yourself permission?
3) Are you feeling stuck in a position, role or situation, and know inside that it’s not right for you? What’s the ‘the next step’ you need/want to take in your career or life?
4) Where do you “naturally lead” and feel comfortable doing that – and where do you often hold yourself back?
Some Insights that might Help
If you feel hesitant about ‘leading’ in some part of your work/life, perhaps some insights from our last breakfast may be helpful. Here are a few:
a) “It’s easy to approach or talk with someone who is carrying flowers, or walking a dog.” Why is that true for many people? Perhaps it’s that the flowers/dog are points of contact – an easy way to break the ice, cross the gap, and make a connection between ourselves and a stranger. Possible insight: Where could you find a point of connection with someone you want to approach or speak to?
b) “When we eat at a new restaurant and love it, what’s our natural inclination? To share that experience and joy with others.” When we experience something we love, love has its own natural tendency to expand, grow, and be shared with others. Insight: If you’re challenged with doing or saying something, could you turn within and ‘find the love behind it’ – and then allow that energy (or spirit) to express how you truly feel?
c) “We’ve been trained to be acceptable… rather than to accept ourselves.” So what would be the opposite of that? Insight: What if we were to start by giving ourselves the acceptance we seek (or “self love,” in the words of Sue Vaughan), before trying to get acceptance or approval from others?
d) “I’m just going to feel nervous about doing this… and that’s okay. I accept this about me.” This brilliant awareness was shared by someone after she took a large public risk in her life. By acknowledging, before she began, that she was going to feel this way – then making it okay when she actually felt it – she gave herself permission/support to get through her ‘scary’ experience. Insight: What does it feel like when you do something scary? What if you were to make those feelings ‘okay’ in advance, so that when you actually experience them, they “expected” and don’t hold you back?
e) “Most people do want to make contact. We’re all afraid of taking the risk to ‘initiate’ – and therefore wait for the other person to do it first.” Insight: Before ‘stepping out and leading,’ what if you saw that others may be scared too… and that by speaking/acting first, you actually may be helping them to get past their fears too?
In spite of my deep reluctance to leading groups and potentially having to intervene or guide the discussion, I did that last month because I wanted the results. I want to be with people who are willing to be vulnerable and honest, and talk openly about these kinds of issues. And I wanted the experience of connection, and community. I still can’t say that I liked my nervousness or discomfort – but I did like the electricity and power of what we created together.
So what about you?
Is there something you want so much that you will give yourself permission to take the ‘risk of leading’?
Go for it.
Is there an insight from this blog, or a past experience of your own (good or bad), that you’d like to share?
See how it feels inside... and, if it feels right, take the risk and share it below. (Click on "Reply" to post).
Want to explore this more? If you can, come to our breakfast chat on July 18th. (See the flyer.)
It would be a pleasure to have you there
All the best - and good luck!
Now how do I feel having written that? I’m actually feeling quite nervous inside. So what is that about?
I’m afraid of judgment. I feel anxious about expressing my truths like this: people might not like it, or disagree. So what does it feel like when people disagree, don’t like, or even hate what I do? Can I let myself feel this, rather than resist it? Am I willing to accept my own feelings? Or what if I said, “I’m just going to feel that way. I’m feeling nervous, and that’s okay.”
[You know, these thoughts have actually helped!]