The Submissive Side of Leadership

Submissiveness and leadership may seem like an oxymoron. Effective leadership requires a strong vision, decisiveness, determination, and tenacity — and I certainly can’t argue with that. But at the same time, leaders need to allow themselves the opportunity to listen to others as well as environmental cues so that we can strategically — and creatively — respond to the world in which we live — and make that world a better place.

Collaborative creative leadership is the process of gathering, integrating, cultivating, and cyclically enhancing the ideas and dreams of others, resulting in possibilities that we alone could not imagine or realize. Ideas can be gathered both formally and informally, through dialogue and multilogue, intentionally and haphazardly, as well as verbally and nonverbally. Ideas are everywhere — in words spoken and unspoken, cloud formations, passive sighs, and the distinctive colors of each evening’s sunset. Intuitive leaders are always paying attention, and are continually analyzing and making sense of their observations.

The ideas that emerge can be woven together, creating a unique tapestry of possibility — one where the colors and textures become more deep, complex, and alive with every passing moment. Each careful, delicate stitch expands and enhances the leader’s vision for provocation and transformation. As that vision is enacted and becomes experience, new threads are spun and woven into the cloth. The tapestry is not just a spectacle for followers to gawk at, it is a living thing to which they can contribute. It reflects something inside of them and something that inspires them; yet, it is much more beautiful and expansive than what they originally intended. The cloth was created by the leader, yet the image it projects was derived from a much broader source.

Being submissive isn’t about being soft, it is about being confident enough in ourselves and our strengths to listen, respond, and create. Submission in leadership is not an all-or-nothing proposition; it is a moment-to-moment process from which we can exit at any moment. It is also not about obedience and conformity; leaning into our submissive side as leaders actually challenges and provokes the world as it exists. Leaders are expected to be in the front, to be the point of light that everyone else seeks out and follows. When that leader instead ignites the light within each person in the crowd, the ambient but energizing glow of new possibilities ensues. Being submissive doesn’t require us to give up anything in ourselves, it provides an opportunity to receive and employ the individual and collective wisdom of others.

Fear keeps leaders from allowing ourselves to be submissive – fear of losing control, appearing incompetent, having someone else get ahead, or being perceived as unleader-like. By letting go of fear in leadership, we can creatively collaborate to not only reimagine our world, but to make tangible and sustainable changes.

L3: Celebrate Individuality

I once worked as an office manager where I was berated for the way I answered the phone.  I was told that I sounded like a little girl and that this was unprofessional and unacceptable.  Surely adding more words would convince callers that I really was in my 20s, and not 16 years old.  I resisted answering the phone with a four sentence greeting as instructed until the ‘boss’ literally screamed at me at the top of his lungs while standing over me as I slouched down into my now uncomfortable office chair.

There were several things wrong in this scenario.  First and foremost, I did not like being told how to do perform the perfunctory duties of my job; I felt that I should have professional discretion in this area.  I also felt that I was being treated with disrespect because of my gender.  How many young men are told that they sound like little boys when they answer the phone?  Finally, being screamed at is not only rude and unprofessional; it is also totally unnecessary and not truly effective.

When I went to that job, I was expected to be boring Miss Office Manager, not fabulous Jessica.  I disappeared when I walked through that door – my personality, my goals, my work style, and eventually my self-respect. Had I been allowed to be myself at work, my productivity would have increased, my attitude would have improved, and everyone would have been much happier. Work could have been fun!  What a waste of time and energy.

To heck with that. From now on it’s just authentic Jessica all the time.

Three New Leadership Books from The Fruition Coalition

The Fruition Coalition has three new leadership books available: Affirmations for Mindful Leaders, Limitless Loving Leadership, and Incandescent Leadership. All three books have been designed to expand the awareness and strengthen the effectiveness of leaders in all fields. These books are available in print or as eBooks at http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/fruitioncoalition.

Affirmations for Mindful Leaders (ISBN 978-1-300-65919-8, 76 pages, $9.99) is a collection of 50 affirmations for leaders who are mindful, ethical, intentional, authentic, and transformational. The affirmations span ten areas: vision; purpose; passion; power; relationships; innovation; risk; responsibility; balance; and transformation. Each affirmation has been carefully designed to help leaders feel more motivated, inspired, purposeful, and connected.

Limitless Loving Leadership (ISBN 978-1-300-65933-4, 92 pages, $12.99) is a collection of essays that explore the intersections of personal and professional life. Author Jessica R. Dreistadt examines some of her life and leadership experiences to reveal lessons about humility, authenticity, appreciation, flexibility, intention, trust, and wisdom. The original 2009 essays from The Activist’s Muse are updated with renewed insights and reflections. Each section also includes reflection questions for readers.

Incandescent Leadership (ISBN 978-1-300-65928-0 , 80 pages, $12.99) is a workbook that helps leaders become more warm, bright, and clear. This book presents a model of leadership, but more importantly it is also process of structured self-discovery through which readers can identify and build upon their distinctive radiance and brilliance. Brief statements and focused questions help readers explore ten areas: purpose, becoming, connection, compassion, energy, wisdom, inspiration, responsiveness, creativity, and transformation.

Check back over the next three days for excerpts from each book.

Playing Smart

When I was about 12 years old, I wrongly, but subconsciously, believed it was socially advantageous to minimize my intellectual capacities. This led to abhorrent behavior that drifted away along with adolescence. Yet, a part of me has retained this damaging belief about myself and the world: that it is somehow better to be less than I truly am and that it serves the world to downplay my unique abilities. While this makes little intellectual sense, this myth has manifested itself in my daily interactions with others, primarily in work situations (which ironically is how I spend most of my time). With some space and reflection, I realize that I have dumbed and numbed myself down so much, little by little, in order to survive that I feel as though a big part of me has died. It has become a bad habit as well as a negative way of being in the world.

For the past five months, detached from official external organizational affiliations, I have allowed my true self to start emerging. I have felt overwhelmingly isolated, rejected, and misunderstood. Yet, I also realize that this resistance is an important part of my growth. From now on, I’m playing smart (hence the new Fruition Coalition mottoes Wisdom is Bliss and Radiate Brilliance) regardless of the outcome. I am going to enjoy the process of being me.

Leader: Sun or Nebula?

When I left my job as an executive director, I went from being a sun — albeit of a microscopic universe — to a nebula. I thought I would feel liberated, but I felt a bit lost at times. Through entrepreneurship, I am loving the freedom of creative expression and learning to honor the accompanying mysteries and complexities of life. In my nebula heart, all things are possible.

Rainy Day Leadership

Clouds would make excellent leaders. They emerge as a response to the environment, yet they become their own thing. They are always changing shape and transforming in substance. They float over the broad landscape without hovering or attaching. They know when to pour rain, when to shield the harsh rays of the sun, when to emit a bolt of lightning, and when to dissipate.