Here comes the sunset of one year and the dawning of another. What’s your practice for releasing the old and embracing the new? I don’t set new year’s resolutions, as they don’t work. Instead, I like to review the past year and vision for the new year. In a nutshell, 2013 is ending in a very different place than when it started, primarily because of my mid-year reentry into the corporate world. Yet, this professional move has fulfilled my intention for 2013, i.e., saying “Yes” to being the leader I’m asked to become, to be more of a channel for Universal Love in how I show up and what I do in 2013. I had a very different picture in my mind about what that would entail at the start of the year.
My boss helped me get a head start on this realization. One week before Christmas, he left a heartfelt card along with a box of chocolates in my office. Among other things, he wrote, “You are truly an inspirational & impactful leader. Transformation has begun and I can’t wait to see where you take things in the months & years ahead. Personally, I am blessed by your encouragement, wisdom & virtuous leadership.” When I thanked him for the card, he reiterated, “You are making a big impact—and not just in what you do, but in who you are.” To me, what he expressed speaks volumes about the kind of person and leader he is. (Incidentally, when I decided to rejoin Corporate America, my top intention was to have a boss I could trust, respect and learn from. Another big 2013 intention fulfilled!)
When I did visioning for 2014, I was essentially guided to continue what was started in 2013 and to take it further by embracing and expressing more of who I am. That is, to lead more from my heart, from love and with love, instead of ego and fear. This means taking my 2013 mantra into 2014 as well: Do it for love.
Leading with Love
Love, the antithesis of fear, is at the root of compassion, generosity, kindness, encouragement, appreciation, gratitude, understanding and all related virtues that inspire and foster unity, expansiveness, non-judgment and acceptance. When I feel insecure, jealous, indignant, angry, exasperated or other fear-based emotions, it’s an indicaton that I have lost my grounding in love and allowed ego to assume control. That is not the place from which I want to lead any part of my life. My 2014 visioning is a clear reminder of that. Since love includes non-judgment and acceptance, leading from and with love also means honoring that it’s part of the human experience to have ego-driven moments. In those moments, I need to shift my consciousness back to love without chastising myself.
Accepting leading with love as my guiding principle/overarching intention for 2014, I contemplated what it means to lead with love. The following branches emerged.
Leading with Presence
Regardless of our background or temperament, we all ultimately want to be seen, heard and understood for who we are in our own way. That’s why I think of my boss as a good leader for recognizing me, not just my accomplishments. That’s also why I believe a key ingredient for leading with love is to be fully present with those we lead or influence in any area of our lives. We cannot truly love without being truly present. Think of someone you consider a really good listener. If you really think about it, this person couldn’t be a good listener if they weren’t fully present with you and had no other agenda than to be there for you.
Leading with Authenticity
My boss holds me in high regard not because I have been invincible every day. Rather, he has seen me fighting back tears a few times in difficult situations and witnessed how needy I could be when my insecurities were triggered. He recognizes and honors the imperfection of my humanity as much as he respects and values my insights, my efforts to do my best every day and how genuinely I care. By contrast, one of my former bosses constantly criticized me for being weak, because I let her see my emotions and I cared about the rank and file, instead of having a “management mindset.”
It has taken a long time for me to learn this lesson, but contrary to popular wisdom, letting our vulnerabilities show authentically is not a sign of weakness. Standing in our humanity when we feel threatened or afraid takes courage and strength. What’s more, doing so makes us real and relatable. Love unites, and never seeks to separate or create us vs. them. Therefore, to lead with love is to be willing to be authentically vulnerable with those we lead and influence—and to honor their authenticity and vulnerabilities. Authenticity fosters genuine engagement.
Leading with Compassion and Understanding
It’s a very human reaction for ego to take over when faced with others’ challenging behavior. Out of reflex, we act defensively, try to get even, or react in other ways that are not loving. Since I started studying and practicing conscious living, I’ve begun seeing the fear behind unkind behavior. For instance, recently, someone said something to try to put me in my place. After being initially stunned—and hurt—I consciously chose to imagine how threatened and insecure she must have felt to need to put me down. It was entirely an ego directive. Instead of matching that with my own ego reaction, I didn’t react, but instead kept seeing her from a compassionate place in my heart.
To me, leading with love includes leading from this compassionate, understanding place that sees beyond fear-induced behavior, so that we can minimize destructive power struggles between egos. This consciousness takes practice, and I’m sure I won’t be able to avoid all ego reactions. Nevertheless, having an intention sets the stage for maximizing its fulfillment.
In reflecting on 2013, I’m grateful to say that I’ve learned more about love as the antithesis of fear and that it has nothing to do with what I can or cannot accomplish—all lessons to take into being the kind of leader I felt called to be in 2013 and become more of in the new year. Overall, I’d sum up 2013 as a year of softening, which meant less judgment and more acceptance. I’ve learned more about getting out of my own way to let life take me to a very different place than expected in order to realize the highest vision shown to me. As 2014 is just around the bend, I look forward to adventures yet unknown, experiencing more love, and becoming more of the leader—the woman—I was born to be.
What about you? What intention would you like to set for 2014? Happy New Year!
(By the way, if you’d like to try the visioning process I use every year, it’s described in the second half of this post.)
Photo credit: http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/
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