Saturday, June 18, 2016

A Note to New Leaders

I am reading Jewell’s memoir, aptly titled Jewel—Never Broken.  The book is long and meandering; the writing exposes the thinking of an immensely talented, intelligent, and self-studying artist.  She looks deeply at herself with a critical but fair eye.  It's pretty great.  And I found a lot of what she says resonates with me as I think about leadership.  Yes.  Really.  

Like when Jewel explains how she grasps a motto she’ll try to live her life by:  Hard wood grows slowly. 

Jewel remembers those words as a reminder that if she wanted to grow strong and last, and not be brittle or broken easily, she had a duty to make decisions that were not just good in the moment but good for long-term growth.  She noted, “It also meant not using cynicism to cover my real feelings of anxiety of vulnerability.  In a world of cool, casual, hip, and snarky, I knew if I indulged in these feelings, I would sink to the bottom of my life like a stone.  I had to respond to my life with vulnerability, sensitivity, and honesty, because they were my only real defenses in this dangerous endeavor called surviging life.  I vowed to try to remember to take the time to grow slowly.  To take the time to make notes and study.  To stay in my body even when I was in pain.”  The motto helped “with countless…decisions that shaped not just the kind of artist but, more important, the kind of human I would become…it helped give me permission to discover and actively create who I was, not who I felt pressured to be.”
Man.  That stopped me right in my tracks.  This is a tough world, and living life is, in large part, surviving it.  There’s a lot of crap—far beyond the cool, casual, hip, and snarky Jewell references.  Of course Jewell is speaking in reaction to the things she deals with as a famous and independent be-true-to-thyself artist, but I think it applies in leadership as well.  There’s a lot of crap in leadership positions.  Snark is only the beginning.  That’s why new leaders sometimes feel really breakable, no matter how hard they try to hide it.  It takes time to be the type of strong leader that can’t be crushed by angry people, ridiculous policies, community and staff politics, or the emotions that come with being the one in charge of a flawed, difficult, ever-changing.

So, if you’re new, I say:  Be patient. 

You’re learning every day. 

Hard wood grows slowly. 

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