“Do not be dismayed by the brokenness of the world. All things break. And all things can be mended. Not with time, as they say, but with intention. So go. Love intentionally, extravagantly, unconditionally. The broken world waits in darkness for the light that is you.”
~ L.R. Knost
I arose to the sound of the doorbell and an unexpected visit from a fellow football mom, former client and friend. She happened to be in the neighborhood and had come by to leave me a beautiful little bouquet of flowers, a simple gesture, both to honor our friendship and to celebrate a milestone in my business. Her small gesture came when I was feeling dark and blue, struggling with the recent deaths of several old friends and the state of our world. It had a powerful and positive impact on me, bringing me back to hope, joy and a deeper sense of connection. Her gesture warmed my heart.
In my worldview, not only was this an act of friendship, kindness and love, it was an act of self-leadership. It’s one thing to be moved by another person, to think about how to acknowledge that person and imagine what you might do about it. It’s quite another to make a plan, actually follow through on it and be willing to have an impact. This is compassion and connection in action, which matters in the best and worst of times, whether we’re celebrating or grieving.
However large or small the gesture, this is how we nurture relationships, build conscious communities and offer one another grace – we reach out and connect consciously, we learn how to give and receive with gratitude, and we actively engage with one another with intention and a willingness to see and be seen.
So much is possible when we actually have a relationship with the person, the thing right in front of us, or the vision we imagine, instead of having a relationship with our thoughts about the relationship or our thoughts about what might be nice to do, which I’m guilty of too. When we get into action, turn toward one another, engage with our dreams, and feel whatever wants to be felt, together, we are honoring our humanity and being powerful and vulnerable at the same time. It is a relatable and generous way to be. It’s how we cultivate a sense of aliveness in ourselves and one another, connect more deeply and make what’s possible real.
All these little micro-moments of self-leadership nourish the soil of our individual and collective souls, plant the seeds for deeper connection and prepare us for the bigger, more difficult things that require more of us. This is an example of the kind of leadership I believe we all need, can nurture and have the capacity to offer to one another. Whether your primary role is running a company, serving as a first responder or caregiver in your home, you are a leader. Each of us, in our various roles, has micro- and macro-moments in which we can exercise our leadership muscles in a way that encourages or terrifies, creates or destroys. We have to be mindful of this. We always have a choice.
I believe that each of us can be as powerful and impactful as my friend who made that unexpected visit that morning. To do so, however, requires us to care about ourselves, one another and our impact, to be mindful about the choices we make, and to take compassionate action, in the moment, when it matters.
To this end, I want to introduce you to my concept of a 21st Century Leadership, where ordinary people like you and me choose to awaken, to make relationships the most important thing (beginning with the one with ourselves), to bring our light into the darkest moments and look for ways to cultivate compassion and connection within and around us on a regular basis, both within our traditional leadership roles and in our lives.
As a leader in my own life and as an advocate for more conscientious self-leadership in the world, I’m taking a stand for what’s possible in all parts of our outer lives when:
- Each of us chooses to make love and our dreams more important than our doubts, fears and concerns;
- We realize that the smallest gestures can be just as life-affirming and impactful as the grandest;
- We take actions that enable us to reconnect with one another and joy.
21st Century Leaders make these qualities and capabilities just as important as the traditional skill sets and ways of being we’ve embraced as leadership to date. The latter is no longer enough in a world needing each one of us and our leaders to be beacons of light in the dark. We have work to do and many of us, with the right support, are very equipped to do it.
Start small, reach out and connect, and keep at it.
Let that be the beginning of your conscious journey back home to yourself, deeper connection and your commitment to cultivating the leader within you.