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.

My Week: Litter

Yesterday morning, I cleaned out the back of my car only to find that someone left a half full soda bottle on the floor. I often come home to find that someone has left their garbage at my curb, in my yard, or even in my recycling bin. At my workplace, cleaning up the garbage the blows by or is casually dropped in front or in back of the building is a continuous chore.

Like the trash that surrounds me, my mind is similarly cluttered with litter. Unhappy memories, insincere intentions, guilt, shame, and worry take up what would otherwise be pristine space in my precious mind.

Our inner and outer words are mutually reflective. It may be no surprise, then, that my home and my office are full of unnecessary things to which I am attached for both sentimental and practical reasons. Stuff, both real and imagined, surrounds me and saturates my emotional-cognitive processes.

There is a lot of litter that I would be quite happy to remove from my view. All of the dirty and now useless trash that I encounter throughout the day can gladly go away. The litter in my mind, however, is a bit more difficult to purge. While I feel ready to let it all go to create more space and freedom, it seems to keep coming back. It is like the wine glass in The Bishop’s Wife that magically refills whenever it is emptied; however, this glass is full of poison.

Perhaps the process of creating space consists of two steps – not just letting go, but also holding that space open. We can resist the inclination to put something in that space, whether we judge it to be good or bad, and just allow it to be free and breezy. By creating and maintaining open space, our minds will become less cluttered and more clear.

The Religiosity and Spirituality of Politics

Oh yes I did…bring up the two most controversial topics in one blog post.

The way we perform politics is much like the expression of religious dogma. We rigidly control and divide based on what we claim to be the ‘truth.’ Wouldn’t it be cool if we let go of our beliefs, all of us, and performed politics with a sense of awe, wonder, openness, and mystery in search of universal wisdom?