Reluctant Leader

My leadership experience began early in life; as the oldest of five and the oldest grandchild on both sides of my family, I was often “voluntold” to lead my siblings and/or cousins in some activity, an exercise usually like herding cats but nowhere near as smooth as that EDS commercial from a few years ago…the one where cowboys are herding cats…but I digress!

That early leadership experience showed me that, with no authority, I needed some other ways to influence my “team” to carry out our responsibilities. I needed to communicate with clarity. I needed to keep my emotions in check. I needed to be more compassionate sister.

I needed to be a better leader.

Inhale Leadership, Exhale Reluctance…
Inhale Responsibility, Exhale Irresponsibility…
Inhale Influence, Exhale Reticence…
Just Breathe

#Leadership
#JustBreathe

Influence is Relational

Leadership is influence. But influence outside of relationship is almost impossible. So this mission-oriented, borderline introvert had to step out of my comfort zone to find the relationship approach that authentically worked for my personality and allowed me to connect with the folks I was privileged to lead.

That meant one-on-one, or small group interactions, which allowed me to be really engaged with each individual.

“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” ~ John Maxwell

Inhale Relationship, Exhale Isolation…
Inhale Influence, Exhale Intimidation…
Inhale Leadership, Exhale Incompetence…
Just Breathe

#Leadership
#JustBreathe

Lead Yourself First

You are a leader… even if you’re just leading yourself. Leading yourself is the most important, most difficult leadership task. Leading yourself well means being who you say you are and doing what you say you will. It requires some self-awareness and includes being disciplined, being committed and being accountable to yourself and in alignment with your purpose.

Inhale Integrity, Exhale Irresponsibility…
Inhale Alignment, Exhale Abandonment…
Inhale Your Best You, Exhale A Lessor You…
Just Breathe

#Leadership
#JustBreathe

Alternate Plan

After planning and executing a few high profile events, I briefly considered event planning as a post Air Force career option. Then I discovered the stress of a demanding career and single parenthood had contributed to a diagnosis of thyroid disease. I recognized I hadn’t handled my busy life as smoothly as I thought I had.

So I reconsidered my phase two career options, resolved to live a more balanced life and reduced activities and acquisitions to what was absolutely necessary to live on purpose.

And so far, so good…

Inhale Reflection, Exhale Rejection…
Inhale Resolution, Exhale Ego…
Inhale Redirection, Exhale Stubbornness…
Just Breathe

#Awareness
#JustBreathe

Mastery

I was in the 4th or 5th grade when I realized that lashing out at my siblings when they interrupted my solitude didn’t get me more quiet time; it only got me in trouble. So I resolved to do a better job of controlling my emotions. I frequently failed.

It took me a while to understand that instead of repressing my emotions, I needed to recognize what I was reacting to and choose a rational response that incorporated my feelings and reason. And that mastery is a life long endeavor…

“…every emotion offers information about you that is important. When you ignore your emotions, you ignore that information.” ~ Gary Kukav, The Heart of the Soul

Inhale Realization, Exhale Repression…
Inhale Rationality, Exhale Irrationality…
Inhale Response, Exhale Reaction…
Just Breathe

#Awareness
#JustBreathe

Emotional Awareness

We can’t prevent, avoid or circumvent our emotions. Our sadness, frustration, anger, hurt, jealousy, etc., are all a part of the human experience. Our emotions are telling us something about how we are processing our experiences. We don’t have to act on them…but we must go through them to get to wholeness.

“We cannot selectively numb emotions, when we numb the painful emotions, we also numb the positive emotions.” ~ Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection

Inhale Emotions, Exhale Stoicism…
Inhale Energy, Exhale Avoidance…
Inhale Experiences, Exhale Repression…
Just Breathe

#Awareness
#JustBreathe

Necessary Solitude

Finding a quiet space when you’re a part of a large family can be difficult but necessary when you tend toward introversion. I have always been an avid reader; as a child I would take my latest biography and try to find a hiding spot where I could lose myself in someone else’s life.

Of course, I didn’t have the awareness to know I was an ambivert or the words to explain why I needed to be alone and I seldom had the agency to not have to explain. I just knew I needed time away from younger siblings, chores and homework and felt relieved when I had quiet time and frustrated when I didn’t.

Inhale Instinct, Exhale Hesitation…
Inhale Awareness, Exhale Uncertainty…
Inhale Action, Exhale Frustration…
Just Breathe

#Awareness
#JustBreathe

To Be Accepted or Respected

Early in my military career, I was advised to lean toward earning respect and acceptance would come.

That doesn’t mean it was easy! As a commander, I took flack for some unpopular stances that reflected my core values…one in particular stands out because it had to do with another leader. In this instance, the leader had not completed the required actions to be eligible for higher-level endorsement on a performance evaluation.

I believe someone who raises their hand to lead has to do it from the front, not bring up the rear with excuses as to why he or she is not up front. I believed if I didn’t hold THIS leader to the standard, I couldn’t in good conscience hold ANYONE to the standard.

So despite some pressure from outside my organization, I stuck to what I knew was right and fair…and earned some (grudging) respect, even from the leader whose feet I held to the fire.

Doing the right thing entailed holding this leader accountable.

Inhale Courage, Exhale Timidity…
Inhale Resolution, Exhale Indecision…
Inhale Respect, Exhale Doubt…
Just Breathe

#JustBreathe
#Courage

All In

I am a Jalen Hurts fan. Despite losing the starting position he owned in 2016 and 2017, the Alabama quarterback has continued to demonstrate the type of leadership experts write about but we seldom witness, especially in one so young.

He has put team first.
He has celebrated his teammates’ success even when that success overshadowed his own.
He has demonstrated integrity while ignoring the external chatter.
He has stayed the course he committed to as a high school junior.
He has fully committed to the team’s goals even if it meant sacrificing his own.

He has embodied what it means to be all in.

Inhale Commitment, Exhale Disengagement…
Inhale Integrity, Exhale Indifference…
Inhale Devotion, Exhale Disloyalty…
Just Breathe

#JustBreathe
#Commitment

Stillness

Isn’t it true that when we most need the tools to quiet our minds, we convince ourselves we’re too busy to use them?

Yet it is only when we are in a place of peace, joy and love that we can accurately discern God’s voice amid the chaos, actually perceive our inner thoughts from the external noise and understand we don’t have be anxious about anything.

“Be still and know that I am God…” Psalm 46:10, NIV

Inhale Stillness, Exhale Anxiety…
Inhale Quiet, Exhale Noise…
Inhale Discernment, Exhale Confusion…
Just Breathe

#JustBreathe

Photo credit: Storm Crypt on VisualHunt.com / CC BY-NC-ND