Posts Tagged ‘ leadership ’

Life isn’t about finding yourself


Life is about

CREATING YOURSELF

(Unknown)

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Why do we do things the way that we do?  What was the initial source of those habits and methods?  And are they relevant today?  And why ask this question in the context of leadership?

A brief story may help to explain this:

A young woman is preparing a pot roast while her friend looks on.  She cuts off both ends of the roast, prepares it and puts it in the pan.  “Why do you cut off the ends?” her friend asks.  “I don’t know”, she replies.  “My mother always did it that way and I learned how to cook it from her”.

Her friend’s question made her curious about her pot roast preparation.  During her next visit home, she asked her mother, “How do you cook a pot roast?”  Her mother proceeded to explain and added, “You cut off both ends, prepare it and put it in the pot and then in the oven”.    “Why do you cut off the ends?” the daughter asked.  Baffled, the mother offered, “That’s how my mother did it and I learned it from her!”

Her daughter’s inquiry made the mother think more about the pot roast preparation.   When she next visited her mother in the nursing home, she asked, “Mom, how do you cook a pot roast?”   The mother slowly answered, thinking between sentences.  “Well, you prepare it with spices, cut off both ends and put it in the pot”.     The mother asked, “But why do you cut off the ends?”     The grandmother’s eyes sparkled as she remembered.   “Well, the roasts were always bigger than the pot that we had back then.  I had to cut off the ends to fit it into the pot that I owned”.

How often, do we take action and don’t even think to ask, “Why do it this way?”   Some of our behaviors were learned long ago – and come out of circumstances that may no longer be relevant and belong to another place and time.  And yet, we just keep doing the same thing, over and over.  We need to stop and ask ourselves, “Why do I do this?”   Is this an anachronism; has it outlived its relevance?  Do I need to update my repertoire?  What might I do differently and perhaps more effectively if I did not feel bound to the way I “have always done it”?  Review and change is yet  another step toward self definition.

Leadership requires flexibility and creativity.  Change is healthy and necessary for both ourselves and in our organizations.  In computers, we update our operating systems every few years (months?)!  Vital leadership requires that  we  continually question our processes and behaviors and to adopt those changes that are the best fit for these times.

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This might seem to be a silly question. It’s something you did many years ago; perhaps you can barely remember. Where did you go? To work? To college? To an apartment? To a volunteer agency? Nearby? Or far away?

Wherever you went, your family had an influence on this earliest process of becoming an adult. This is a time for differentiating from the family as a whole and launching into your own life. The beginning of self definition.

Our daughter, and youngest child, is off to college in a few days. And hopefully, we are supporting her in stepping into her next chapter. I want her to know that we have great faith, not only in her intelligence but in her ability to face life. We’ve taught her all we can. Now it is her chance to figure out what works for her – and what doesn’t. Who she wants to be in this world and what matters to her.

I hope we’ve supported that all along. But this is a special time. And this process will have a powerful impact on her ability to grow into adulthood and lead herself.

I hope we’ve done it well.

How did you leave home?  Hopefully, you were given “permission” to decide who you wanted to be and what was important to you. What part of that process is unfinished?

We all have some challenges in becoming independent with and from our families.  A few suggestions to move you forward:

1. You might have a conversation with family members about your growing into adulthood.

2. Consider the context in which you first left home – the historic and social context, what was happening in the rest of your family at the time, your family culture?

3. How did these impact your family’s reaction to your creating independence?

The best leaders are those who are able to know themselves and lead themselves before leading others.

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I was lucky to be “just like” my grandmother.

Now, many of us don’t think of grandmothers as role models for leadership.  They bake cookies and take us to the zoo.  But my grandmother was a family legend.   She could play a concerto on the piano after the concert – without music.  She took two years of Greek and Latin in one summer to gain admission to a competitive college.

All families have stories about the people and events in their history.  My grandmother was a slight woman but a force to be reckoned with.  And I was “just like her”.  I loved music, I was curious….and I loved custard.  Really!  Loved custard – just like her.

My grandmother was terribly disappointed when her mother, a woman from the “old country”, ultimately refused to let her go to college.  “College is for your brothers and I need you here”.   A blow to be sure.  As the years went on, my grandmother grew into the role of matriarch but never saw her academic or professional goals achieved.

It can be difficult and challenging to follow in someone’s footsteps.  But it can also be a gift.  I am grateful to have been inspired to finish her “unfinished business”.  I reached higher than I might have, with the desire to fill her shoes.

Who have you been compared to in your family?  How has this impacted your achievement and success?

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You’ve worked for this promotion and recognition for quite some time.  Now, you have been assigned to a leadership position.  You feel you have what it takes to lead.

And then…………sometimes questions creep in.  Do you feel like an imposter?  Pretending to be a grownup?  Struggle with managing up?  Face challenges managing down?

How do you think we learn to think of ourselves as “little” or “not enough” or “less than”?  Or like the “big bully”?

More often than not, it begins in our families of origin.  We’re the youngest one, babied and teased.   And when we’re ready to take on responsibility and even leadership, we question our right to be in this role.  Am I up to it?  Am I smart enough?  We might be easily intimidated by our supervisor.  We might have trouble giving difficult feedback and sustaining leadership with our direct reports.

One aspect that determined our ability to take on leadership and to feel comfortable with others as leaders in authority is learned in our family.  Related to birth order, and gender and the timing of our birth.  Were you the big brother?  The care taking big sister?  The silly baby?  The girl, in a family of boys, prized in your ethnic group.    Were you raised in a time of economic security or in a time of uncertainty in your family?

All of these aspects of family are worth reviewing to understand your styles as a leader.  Then we have to decide – Is today a different time?  Are we in a different organization/system?  Can we risk taking on new behaviors and roles to attain the goals we most want to reach?

Effective leadership, from the inside out, requires us to explore ourselves in our family of origin as well as our willingness to try on new roles in the present…….to create a new future for ourselves.  And to lead that organization to success.

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