Leadership Series Part 1: The Privilege of a Lifetime is Being Who You Are
It’s summer in the year 2000, and I’m looking out the window of my very grand office. I can see a duck. She swims to the bank, shakes herself off and relaxes in the mid-afternoon sun.
Now, by most measures, I had made it. I was a big cheese. I had a great new job at the top of a corporate leadership team. But something wasn’t right.
The day before, I received a card with a line from Joseph Campbell on the front: “The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.” Looking at that duck sitting in the sun, I suddenly had to ask myself… Who was I? Really? I was not as calm, present or relaxed as that duck. She knew her true self much better than me.
In that moment, I realised I had forgotten how to be a duck. Or rather, I had forgotten how to be me.
Instead, stress and anxiety ran through me. I felt empty in my heart and soul. This place – this grand office – was not my water or my sunny bank. It wasn’t a place where I could BE fully, authentically, safely me.
But I also knew business didn’t need to be this way. People have a right to great leadership. A right to feel a powerful sense of belonging, so they can bring their full selves to any team they join. But in this fear-based culture, I was confused and lost.
And in this state, I went into ‘proving mode’. I moved too fast, not taking the right people with me in the right way. I could see our system was hurting, but my pushing and prodding was only making it worse.
That’s because, while I was busy acknowledging what I was, I failed to honour their history and context. As a result, my insights landed as judgments. What we needed, was an invitation to navigate the complex challenges together and create profound transformation in our company.
Eventually, I left that culture. It took me a while to take responsibility for my failure. I reached for humility, but my default was denial, resistance, defence and blame.
But, over time, I journeyed deeper into my own awareness, healing and growth. I learned the courage it takes to be willing to learn from our failures. And eventually, I opened, accepting my part. Today, I am so grateful for the leadership and life lessons I gained there. After all, they led me onto a new adventure and dedication to my own profound transformation and life purpose.
It was time to find clarity on who I really was. In the words of the amazing American poet Mary Oliver, “How do you plan to use this one wild precious thing called your life?”
Find a moment to pause with good cup of something. Gift yourself time to ponder ….
- What is your duck moment?
- What is your default response to failure?
- What is your team and organisation’s default response to failure?
- Where might you be out of flow and pushing too hard for change?
- Where might you not be honouring the history of your team or company?
- What might be the sunny bank you need to rest on and get back on purpose?