Leadership is like the metaphorical iceberg. What we actually see in a successful leader is only a fifth of what it really takes. The real work of being a leader occurs in the four fifths below the surface, internal work. Authenticity is essential for the long haul.
In the last few months I started running, from ‘never, ever’ to 4km. When I was a child I would win heats at athletics events, progress to finals and regionals, without any training. This small person was fairly active.
For the last year or so I have looked at runners, and thought, “I want to do that”. So I bought myself some new running shoes, had orthotics fitted and downloaded the Couch to 5k app. I got started. Three months later I’m still at it. I believed that there was a runner inside and I decided to find her.
I’ve been thinking about the idea of authenticity, being true to my real self. I had one of those ‘stumbled on’ recently moments when I found the book Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation, by Parker J Palmer. ‘Vocation’, Palmer explains is derived from the word ‘voice’, not an external distant call, but rather a voice deep within each of us.
…every journey, honestly undertaken, stands a chance of taking us toward the place where our deep gladness meets the world’s deep need.
I am idealistic enough to believe that for each of us, our work can be a place of deep gladness and that there is a unique need that we can meet. Palmer encourages readers to think about themselves as a child. He writes:
Watching my granddaughter from her earliest days… I was able to see something that eluded me as a twentysomething parent: my granddaughter arrived in the world as this kind of person rather than that, or that, or that… In those early days of my granddaughter’s life I began observing inclinations and proclivities that were planted in her at birth.
“this kind of person”
I started thinking about the experiences and passions that I had as a child those things that helped to shape who I am today and into the future?
As I thought about my childhood athleticism I remembered that each year at the annual Sunday School Picnic my only goal was to win my age race, as I seemed to do. Then I took this a step further, am I competitive? (yes) Is this a good thing? (I hope so)
(Note: I appreciate that for many, thinking deeply about childhood experiences can be painful, and for some, not necessarily recommended.)
“inclinations and proclivities”
I remembered another proclivity or two. I was that kid who was paraded from class to class with a ‘superpower’ in Grade 1, aged 6. I could pronounce really-really long words. The teacher would write “salutation” and other multi-syllabic words and the little blonde girl would read them all.
Throughout my school life I think my teachers either really liked me, or I drove them crazy. I was noisy, messy and talkative. And then I remembered the moment, I was in Grade 2, the thought occurred to me “I want to be a teacher”. Despite getting into trouble much of the time, this is what I wanted to do.
Two out of three seem OK, but competitive. So I unpacked this one a little further. Success at competition required strategy and tactics. That works for me.
There is so much to say, I might unpack a few more ideas. Stay tuned.