Last week I wrote about the first key to Transformational Leadership: knowing why you do the work that you do or why you give energy to the things you do, and then letting that “why” lead you. It’s a soul thing. When you are really in touch with who you are called to be and what is yours to do, there is something at your essence that won’t let you not do it – at least if you want to be at peace within yourself. It’s a passion. It’s something you believe in, perhaps more than you believe in yourself. And it’s something we don’t talk about enough in today’s culture.
Because we don’t talk about it enough, we also easily forget it, particularly when the going gets tough. Which leads us to a second key to transformational leadership – remembering who you are and why you do what you do, especially when the pressure is on.
A long-time client who has been on a coaching hiatus for more than a year – we’ll call him Frank – recently called to ask if we could talk. The leader of a high-level creative team, Frank is a pretty self-aware guy. He also knows how to tap into potential and follow it quite brilliantly. Yet now he was in crisis with an enormous five-year project and he didn’t know what to do. They were so close to getting the project completed and he was feeling huge pressure coming from many directions to just get it done.
Just as they were about to enter the final and most expensive phase of the project, one of the biggest funders for the project wanted to change the terms of their agreement. While what this funder was proposing might have been technically legal, to Frank it felt far from ethical. Yet if Frank didn’t go along with his demands, the funder could very well withdraw all of his quite substantial financial support and the project would grind to a halt just when they were so close to completion. Five years of work could be gone. Many people had worked incredibly hard and at great sacrifice to see this project through. And now, what would happen?
We began with a few questions to cut to the essence of what was going on. Within a short time it became clear that, in his commitment to completing the project and feeling such big pressure from so many to create a success, Frank had lost touch with himself and the passions and values that drive his incredibly dynamic work in the world. And in losing touch with himself, he had lost his connection with the soul of this project – the potential that had started to emerge more than five years ago and that was the driving passion upon which this project was based. He had temporarily forgotten that his leadership in this project was really about his service to humanity. He had gotten lost in the pressure to just get it done.
As Frank recognized what he’d lost touch with and reached deep inside to find himself again, his voice changed. His energy became clear and focused again. The Frank that I know had returned. He immediately knew what his next step had to be. While he couldn’t see all the way through the complexity of the situation, he could see his first step. And he had found once again the place inside of himself where he knew his truth. Once he was back in his truth, he knew how to follow the soul of the project and let it show him the way.
When we hung up the phone, Frank was headed out for a walk to ground himself again in his center and in “why” he does the leadership work that he does. From this place, he knew that, although there might be some difficult conversations ahead, he could trust his clear center to listen to the soul of the project and let it show him each next step.
Remember who you are and why you do what you do. Remember it every hour of every day. Talk with your colleagues about why they do what they do. Create a culture that is grounded in purpose and clarity. It will serve you every day. And when crisis arises, your clear and solid “why” will lead you forward.
P.S. If you have a copy of my book, The Manifestation Wheel, pages 68 – 71 will help you get clear about your “why” for any project or vision. If you don’t have the book, you can order it here.
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