New Year, Same You?

New Year, Same You?

So here we are, the start of another new year. I’m sure like most, you are thinking about goals, strategies and resolutions to make this ‘the best year yet’. These well-intentioned goals are probably SMART goals too, am I right? But how many of those goals are truly rooted in the ONLY thing you can truly control…yourself? How many of those goals instead, have an external locus of control, like outcomes? If at the end of 2019, you achieve those goals but are still unfulfilled, unhappy and discouraged, have you really achieved what matters?

Five years ago I found out that on my very best day, I was not a good leader. This isn’t such great news when you are in a leadership position.

Here I was, looking at an assessment tool – a tool that has been validated for over 20 years – telling me that even on my BEST DAY, I showed up at work feeling anger and conflict 75% of the time. This, my friends, is not the making of great leadership, and certainly not the making of a SERVANT LEADER.

So what did this mean? It meant my emotional life was blocking me from exemplifying the attributes of servant leadership. Talk about a cold bucket of water in the face! There was a serious disconnect between what I said I believed and how I actually showed up in the world. While I believe all of us fall short from time to time in our leadership and perfection is an illusion, I knew I had to do better.

This began my quest to become the kind of leader who FEELS Joy, Peace and Compassion, one who OPERATES with Wisdom, Service and Cooperation, from a HEART of Reconciliation, Non-judgment and Humility. Leading others from the perspective of service is my heart’s desire.

I dove into the vast amount of published information on Servant Leadership; I read books, listened to podcasts and worked with a coach. I realized I had to undo so much of my thinking in order to truly show up as a servant leader. I came to falsely believe that service/working for a nonprofit = servant leadership. It does not.

Once I discovered the nuts and bolts of TRUE servant leadership, I realized all sorts of ways I resisted servant leadership. For example, part of servant leadership is connecting meaningfully with others. Sounds great, right? Sure! But connecting meaningfully requires vulnerability – that sounded scary to me which is why I didn’t do it. Traditional leaders hide their vulnerabilities and exploit the vulnerabilities of others. But a servant leader shares their vulnerabilities and helps others to leverage their own. On one hand I said I believe in connecting meaningfully, but on the other, I WASN’T ACTUALLY DOING IT. It is not enough to cognitively agree with servant leadership. I had to change my belief system in order to be the leader I wanted to be.

These revelations created the opportunity I never knew I needed, the opportunity to grow personally so that I could be who I wanted to be professionally.

So while this new year brings new goals for me too, what has brought me the most fulfillment and sense of accomplishment is learning to ACTUALLY EMBODY what we call servant leadership here at Relā. This inside-out work has been the single most profound step in my personal and professional journey.

I encourage you, as you work on your goals for this year, reflect honestly on who you want to be and how you actually resist that in action. Challenge the thoughts that create those unproductive behaviors and work to choose new thought supportive of healthy habits. Changing a behavior alone, doesn’t mean you have changed on the inside. Change the inside and the outside will follow.

The good news is, anyone can do it. Here’s how:

1. Learn
Learn about the attributes that you wish to embody. In this process, commit to laying down the myths and assumptions that hold you back.

2. Identify
Once you learn about these attributes, challenge yourself. Ask yourself, ‘Why don’t I do this? What’s getting in my way? Why won’t this work?’ Write down your resistance.

3. Challenge
Take each reason/excuse above and challenge it. Is it ACTUALLY true? Is there something else that could be true? What are our choices in the matter? What have we chosen in the past that hasn’t worked and what new choice might work better?

4. Change
Now we are ready for action. Here we practice new mindsets and ideas with intention, keeping in mind that progress, not perfection, is the goal. Choose a new narrative – a narrative that supports the attributes of your desired self. Prepare for discomfort. Old thought patterns, beliefs and behaviors cause a lot of pain once we see that we have embraced them for so long. Eventually, we become willing to accept that maybe what we used to think about leadership just isn’t working. Then practice and don’t give up.

Be sure to contact us at info@relaleadership.org if you want to know more about this process and how we can help you and your team grow personally and professionally. You can also check out all our training programs HERE.

Happy New Year!

Shannon Lee
Executive Director, Relā

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