The Hot Stove

When we were children and our mother or father cautioned us against touching the hot stove we most likely heeded their words. If not we got burned, and then the next time we were around something really hot, like a blazing hot stove, we had zero difficulty heeding the rules of nature.

In leadership there are a good number of rules of nature that are time tested, even researched, espoused by the luminaries of leadership, and demonstrated by awesome leaders who have accomplished amazing things. Ignoring the rules of nature related to leadership is also painful, like touching a hot stove.

The Challenge of Discerning Leadership

And yet, connecting the ways in which we are in conflict with the rules of leadership to business outcomes can be difficult. In part because the rules of leadership that are time tested, researched, and known to produce amazing results are things like leading with humility, caring authentically about people, focusing more intently on a vision than the amount of money being made, being purposeful, being consistent, empowering people, not getting carried away with too much hierarchy, and so on.

When we fail in any of these areas the outcomes are not immediately apparent. In fact it can take months, or even years in the case of larger companies, before it becomes undeniable that a company is off track. It’s like touching a hot stove and feeling it two years later. By that time we’ve forgot all about touching the hot stove.

It is also difficult to see that we have strayed from the laws of leadership because it requires us, as leaders, to look objectively and critically at ourselves.

Ouch … that can hurt … we don’t like the hurt … like touching a hot stove … better to avoid the hurt and keep focusing on the mechanics of the business than the intangible aspects of leadership.

The Path to Discernment

It always comes back to us: to where we are strong, where we are lacking, where we are on track, and where we have gone astray—all in relation to how we lead, communicate, and interact with people.

The pathway to discernment of leadership is to always maintain an inward focus—to always be willing to consider the nature of our leadership and communication, our motivations in all their shades, and to be willing (at least a little) to feel our way into leadership more so than to think our way in. This is a path of greater authenticity and realness, which is the secret ingredient that compels others to follow our vision with passion and heart.

Tip Of The Week

Moving from thinking our way into leadership to feeling our way into leadership requires that we develop and strengthen a new muscle—the muscle of heart-centered leadership. Just like with developing physical muscles we start slow and apply consistent effort. This week’s tip is to pick just one area of leadership you would like to improve in. Ask yourself how you feel about this area of leadership, not what you think. Take slow even deep breaths and as you focus on your breath notice how you feel, and ask yourself what that feeling tells you about how you are with that area of leadership.