Our purpose for being on this earth is to serve the greater good…a higher calling. It is our responsibility to intentionally and deliberately move toward our purpose.
We have the power to end poverty, homelessness, brutality, hunger…as well as all the “isms” infecting our world. But we often let the shear enormity of our purpose stop us from moving forward. We embrace the narrowness of what we can see, the seeming smallness of our current situation instead of the expansiveness of God’s vision for us. We allow the obstacles of our circumstances to stop us from even beginning…
“If you can link the passion you have for a specific activity with a broader purpose that gets you up every morning, that’s what’s been most helpful to me.” ~ Jim Kim President of the World Bank
“All leaders are serving – either themselves or others.” ~ Global leadership guru and author Bill Hybels.
In his book, The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader, John Maxwell used the late General Norman Schwarzkopf Jr. as an example of servant hood. As a retired military officer, I love that one of my favorite authors, leadership guru Maxwell recognized this stellar officer as a servant leader.
For those of you too young to remember, the General led coalition forces during DESERT STORM, and was affectionately referred to as Stormin’ Norman. But I admit…I found the choice surprising given that even as military members are SERVING their country, many don’t see them as servant leaders.
They see the military as a top-down, orders-driven and rank-focused hierarchy. The reality is much more complex.
The primary motivation to join an all-volunteer organization that doesn’t pay very well, that asks its members to leave friends and families and put themselves in harms way, an organization that sometimes requires its members to make the ultimate sacrifice…the motivation to join that organization is usually, not always, but primarily, the desire to serve. The desire is to serve something other than self…something bigger than self.
What those members who desire to serve and commit to serving learn as they grow into leadership roles is that serving is demonstrated in the care and development of those they are privileged to lead.
“Take care of the people and the people will take care of the mission” is the phrase I learned as a young officer…which made sense considering I wasn’t the one doing most of the work.
So I focused on doing what only I could do… identifying and sometimes fighting for the resources my airmen needed to do their jobs safely and efficiently.
Not only do servant leaders provide the resources needed to get the job done, they work on actively developing the members who will fill their leadership shoes, driving retention and compelling loyalty.
And yes, in the military, there is time for following orders without question. What ensures an order WILL be followed is the demonstration by leaders at all levels that they care about each individual entrusted to their care, about their families, about what’s going on in their lives outside of work… who ensure the members of their team have the resources needed and the development opportunities required to do the task they’re committed to complete.
We all have a reason for being on this earth and unique ways to express our purpose. The passion or enthusiasm we feel for a particular cause is pointing us to our God given purpose. If we pay attention, our purpose is manifested in our hopes, dreams, and wishes and can impel our growth and forward motion.
“For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10 NIV
Our dreams can ignite a passion for a cause that reveals our purpose. We all have a purpose…our reason for being here. When we don’t fulfill our purpose, things come undone or don’t get done.
Our purpose is sometimes revealed in an unexpected way when we experience something personally or something happens to someone close to us and we feel compelled to act. Candy Lightner founded Mothers Against Drunk Driving after a drunk driver who had a history of arrests for intoxication hit and killed her daughter.
Or sometimes we’re exposed to something for the very first time and we don’t understand how we’re going to live with out this in our lives. Think Misty Copeland who wasn’t introduced to ballet until the relatively late age of 13.
Every now and then our innate and obvious passions and talents are nurtured and developed from the beginning of our lives…we call those people prodigies. Pablo Picasso’s passion and talent for drawing were evident, encouraged and expanded from an early age by his art instructor father.
Unfortunately, not everyone gets that kind of early, sustained support, but that doesn’t mean we can’t act on our desires and use our talents to fulfill our purpose as soon as we know what it is. It doesn’t matter how or even when we get to our purpose. It only matters that when the discovery is made, we strive to live in and on purpose.
Our light is revealed as we strike our gift against the needs of the world…” ~ Mark Nepo
I once had a boss try to embarrass me in a meeting. I had been on the job about a month and was still trying to learn my way around.
I don’t really remember what she said, but I do remember hearing the roar of blood rushing to my face. I was stunned and momentarily immobilized. I managed to finish what I was doing (I think) but my emotions had been hijacked, rendering me unable to fully function. When I confronted her later, her response was basically, “Yeah, and I did it on purpose….”
Her action and response had a really negative impact on my desire to continue working for her.
Emotional Intelligence guru Daniel Goleman writes in Primal Leadership that the fundamental task of the leader is to prime good feelings in those she is privileged to lead and “that occurs when the leader creates resonance – a reservoir of positivity that frees the best in people”.
The opposite of resonance is dissonance; a dissonant leader throws people off balance and negatively impacts their performance.
The great thing about being in the military is that you get to experience leadership changes frequently. Either you or your boss will eventually move to another location. So the occasional dissonant leader may make your life miserable for a time … that you know will pass. I decided early in my career to try and learn from the good AND not-so-good leaders.
This particular dissonant leader reinforced for me the truth of a tenet I learned as a young officer…
Take care of the people and the people will take care of the mission.
I understood it to mean I was to provide what was needed to the people I was privileged to lead so they could do their jobs. Providing what they needed wasn’t just ensuring they had the resources they required, a safe physical environment and recognition for a job well done. It also meant creating a culture where people felt safe to make mistakes and being honest when the mistake was mine.
Taking care of the people meant being open and transparent when, for example, a unit I was leading was being outsourced.
It meant not asking my subordinate commanders to drop what they were doing to attend an emergency meeting…that was not an actual emergency.
A leader who understands how to take care of her people is going to attract and retain employees who want the organization to be successful and are actively engaged in creating that success.
Do you know how your leadership is impacting your team?
Like the women in the article, we too have experienced disturbing behavior from men who try to use their physicality to silence us. Like most women, we were revulsed by Trump’s lurking, hovering, space invading attempts to intimidate Sec Hillary Rodham Clinton (HRC). And as many women expressed on social media, we are in awe of her ability to refrain from physically attacking him.
And that’s when I had my “Aha” moment. HRC’s mastery at fixing her face may be a contributing factor to the widely held belief that she is a liar.
Hear me out! I’m not saying it’s the main factor. Most of the charges of lying stem from garden variety sexism levied at women leaders on a daily basis. HRC has had the temerity to be ambitious. She not only has definite ideas about how to do good in the world, she has implemented some of those ideas. She was the trail-blazing first First Lady to have a formal position in her husband’s West Wing. People across the political spectrum have attacked her for everything from her decision to stay with her philandering husband to how she wears her hair.
And of course, there are the multiple investigations, often launched as a result of fallacious charges, book-ended between the 8-year, $70 million Whitewater investigation, led by disgraced former special prosecutor Kenneth Starr and the $8 million, multi-congressional hearings on Benghazi.
There has yet to be a discovery of anything indictable but the impression remains that Hillary has something to hide.
The perception persists despite political fact checking organizations like PolitiFact rating over 70 percent of HRC’s statements as true, mostly true or half true.
Transparency loving Millennials have been particularly hard on her, calling her inauthentic. But what they view as a lack of authenticity could be the restrained responses of a woman, who, understanding how people react to powerful women, is trying to play within what is allowed even as she attempts to break this highest glass ceiling.
HRC has attained such mastery that she was able to listen to Trump’s incoherent and uninformed ranting for something she could actually respond to without laughing long and loudly. Can you listen to Trump without rolling your eyes?
HRC declined to match her opponent’s negative energy and managed to maintain a measured tone, when responding to the moderators and to Trump. Would you have been able to stop yourself from screaming at Trump’s lies?
This emotionally intelligent mastery of self is something HRC has been doing for a while. During the height of the Monica Lewinsky scandal, HRC fixed her face for every public appearance and focused on the long term goals of a unique partnership rather than the short term satisfaction of calling her husband out in public.
Can anyone say, after the public humiliation of having the leader of the free world cheat on you, that you would have decided to stay in your marriage AND refrained from any “my side of the story” interviews?
Speaking of indiscretions of a sexual nature, many people suggested she should come out swinging after Trump was revealed to have bragged about sexually assaulting women.
In every experience, every encounter, we get a choice on how to respond. It’s not always easy to do and it’s not always the most satisfying, but an effective leader has the self-control to respond instead of react in a crises or to negative stimuli or to a perceived slight. And isn’t the ability to be effective what we want in a leader?
Everything I read during my morning devotion encouraged me to get still. I was feeling agitated…nothing debilitating just an increased level of “did I get this done” and “what can I do to make a difference?”
I realized I hadn’t been doing what I know to do to keep myself centered and receptive.
I was watching too much news.
I wasn’t entering my items “to do” in my phone planner app as soon as they occurred to me so I could let them go.
I wasn’t taking the time to slow down and really get still.
And I was feeling some kind of way that wasn’t reflective of how I want to feel.
So I took the time to get still, breathe in unison with life and let the truth flow in. And already, I’m feeling more at peace…
“Being centered…plunges us again and again, into that unseeable stream in which life is continually vital and refreshed.” ~ Mark Nepo
Inhale Centered, Exhale Chaotic… Inhale Slow Down, Exhale Stress Out… Inhale At Peace, Exhale Agitated… Just Breathe…
Most of us have not actually experienced what happens after our bodies cease to function. But some of us have experienced an emptiness that results from not giving into the passion we feel…not allowing our desire to make a difference, not giving voice to our dreams, not allowing our hears to break…not giving birth to what is inside us that will lead us to our purpose. And isn’t not giving birth to the seed inside you the same as death?
“Don’t die with your music still inside you. Listen to your intuitive inner voice and find what passion stirs your soul.” ~ Wayne Dyer
Our dreams are like babies. They need to be fed, nurtured, and protected in a safe environment to thrive. If they are not fed enough, or neglected too often, or exposed too early to a harsh world before they are sufficiently developed, our dreams die. And even though our bodies may continue to function, when our dreams die, we are less than alive.
What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun? Or fester like a sore— And then run? Does it stink like rotten meat? Or crust and sugar over— like a syrupy sweet?
The dreams that you have, the desires placed on your heart, the emotions you experience in response to events are there for a reason. They are showing you bits of your destiny…what your world can look like if you step into the fullness of who you are…and how stepping into your purpose can impact your larger community, even the world.
“If your dream only includes you, it’s too small.” ~ Ava DuVernay, director of Selma