I retreated to my office, sank down at my desk - which was really a folding table covered with a company table cloth - put my face in my hands, and cried. It wasn’t the first time I had done this and it wouldn’t be the last.
I was in a state of upheaval. My office was temporary because the office I was supposed to be in wouldn’t be vacated for months yet. My knowledge and experience strained to respond to what was coming at me every day. I had a team who largely didn’t trust me. And truth be told, I didn’t trust them, either.
I had been asked to lead a department who didn’t ask for or want a leadership change. Every day I steeled myself and packed on my proverbial armor as I walked into the office, smile pasted on. I wouldn’t be surprised if they all did the same thing.
This isn’t only my story. I hear from others they have similar stories. Leadership is hard. There is no step-by-step play book to become a successful leader. There are so many variables. Circumstances change. Situations adjust by the hour. Personalities differ.
Sometimes it’s just a mess.
My outward life was just that - a mess. I was physically unhealthy and eating my way through my emotions, I was struggling to make it through my Ph.D. program and had reached a limit and submitted a leave of absence, I was disliked at work, and I felt like my leadership was a failure.
Those were rough days. Distance gives perspective and as I review that time of my life, it is clear my leadership was spotty at best because of one main reason: I was focused on the external circumstances and neglecting my internal spirit.
Those who are truly good leaders have at least one thing in common: they do not live in external circumstances.
External circumstances stink. Rarely are they all rainbows and roses. More frequently they are studded with tears and nights of despair.
External circumstances almost always end in crisis. They are outside of our control, yet we somehow try to control them. It becomes hopeless.
If leaders live in the external circumstances, they lose hope. Successful leaders live in hope.
This is not to say you must believe in a castle in the sky by and by, but that there is an informed, cultivated hope grounded in something other than external circumstances.
Here’s why leadership (and life) is hard and we are in a leadership crisis. Very few of us make it a daily priority to deepen our personal moorings and build our character. Intentionally building our character is what gives assurance.
Assurance regardless of turbulence.
Assurance outside of unjust circumstances.
Assurance of who we are and what we stand for.
When we have the assurance of a solid internal spirit, circumstances have no sovereignty over us.
Authentic leaders do not live in external circumstances; they moor their internal spirit through daily, intentional character building.
What are you doing today to build your character?
There are many reasons we are in a leadership crisis, and we will spend a short series reviewing the most prevalent ones. Your comments, agreements, disagreements, and thoughts are welcomed and craved. We are in this together. Together we can improve our leadership to the power of WITH.