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on leadership and letting go…

January 30, 2015

lisa hammershaimb

Today I am so glad it’s almost Friday, almost the weekend, almost the time when I can be safely ensconced in two non-working days and not have a pavlovian reaction to my email alert tone. It’s been one of “those” weeks where you almost become conditioned to the fact that the sky will fall and you will completely shatter at least once per day (and indeed just once per day becomes grace.) I’m sure I’m being overly dramatic and in the long view of things this week will resolve but legit in this moment I’m pretty confident I’ve had more energy shortly after completing a marathon than I currently have now.

In an effort to model good reflective practice (and also with the hope that if I can write a significant portion of this out it means I will actually free up my racing mind and I will get to sleep a full night…finally) I’ll embrace objective academic and just list and annotate what I’ve observed in this week’s ethnography of lisa.

1. saying goodbye to people when they leave roles in your life that have been pillars in who you are is hard. always. even if you know it’s the right thing and you know they’re not leaving you and you know all the nice sounding stuff is true. it’s still a gut wrenching feeling of loss because there’s now this part of you that’s raw and missing. i’m old enough to know that it fills in and it resolves but yeah…this kind of somewhat internal ache is so hard and I’ve spent the week with what feels like a bruise on my soul that won’t heal anytime soon.

2. being humbled because you’ve been called on your own tendency to live in shades of gray rather than be black and white rule abiding is hard. always. My key strengths are my ability to take risks, try out things with confidence, and have a free thinking non-linear explorative spirit…except when I have to explain myself to a system based on rigid check and balance process and then the above become my key weaknesses. while I’m no longer actively in trouble, I’m glad that I know the boundaries of the play ground and have adjusted my scope of experimentation accordingly. “I’m sorry” has become the script of my week.

3. being completely vulnerable and transparent with those you lead is hard….but always the best way. When the above situation happened I was very open about my struggles and what was going on with my closest team members. It literally felt like i was about 12, I was going to vomit, and they were finally going to see me for the sham that the darker voices in my head talk about on a daily basis. Yet after I’d gotten it out, totally cliche but, it was freedom because they saw new parts of me and even more were allowed to speak into me rather than the usual me-to-them transaction.

4. the hardest thing about being a leader is opening your own grabby little fists and trusting your team. (indeed, the hardest part of being a person might be opening up your grabby little fists and trusting others, time, and process.) when I accepted this job almost a year ago, I was so concerned that I wouldn’t be able to give presentations because I was such a poor public speaker…I was petrified that I wouldn’t know how to balance my time and I’d burn out…I was convinced that no one would follow my lead and all my ideas were too crazy or bizarre to ever inspire others. Turns out, presentations (or at least distance-mediated ones) are cake. Balancing time is tricky but luckily I do have a pretty good “stop or I will stop for you” balance on my body itself. Ideas? Position and passion pretty much ensure that people will jump on the bandwagon…keeping them is anyone’s guess but getting them isn’t so hard.

But yeah…letting go is something so completely different. For whatever reason (and I’m taking the Leadership Theory course right now so you’d think if anyone knew the answer it would be me) it feels natural for me to say that I’d be willing to sacrifice myself for my team as I am their leader but to give them stuff to do….eek! I’m not weak! I’m not needy!! I’m all powerful and in charge!!! Or at least I like to tell myself these things.

In truth, I am strong and courageous but so is every person on my team. By virtue of timing and choosing and who knows what…I ended up as the “leader” but with that title I didn’t suddenly also get superpowers.

Then things like this week happen and you end up messy and human and anything but a superhero in front of your team and turns out…just where you end is the perfect place for all of them to begin. It turns out that you’ve been feeling noble as you shelter them but really they’re more than willing for the relationship to be reciprocal…more than capable of holding you when you need it, if you will only let them.

I didn’t have many proud moments this week but I did have a proud moment realizing that the culture I’ve been hoping for for oh the last year is actually a reality. We can be open. We can be real people with each other.  We can open our grabby hands because it is safe. I can (and have) opened my hands to them because it is safe and in a act of grace and beauty…they’ve opened theirs in return.

So, what’s next? Hopefully lots of sleep and some quiet. Though I’m finding resolution more and more, this week scarred me pretty deep and I want to grow and not gloss over these new places in me that have opened up.

Ahh life….What a fun and frustrating challenge you often turn into.

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