Saturday, January 15, 2011

365 Days of Peace

Leaders spend enormous amounts of money and time to prepare themselves for the knowledge of leadership.  But, do we recognize or plan for the demand on our emotional selves?  True leadership moves beyond accuracy, content expertise, and effectiveness and assumes responsibility for the heart and soul of our organization and our staff.  After ten years of school leadership, I have to take a time-out, reflect on multiple years of emotional highs and lows that have been assigned to the role of principal, and ask myself:  Have I ever spent any intentional time developing my own emotional being?

The first step in developing your emotional health is accepting the inextricable relationship between your professional and personal experiences.  Successful leaders have generally shown high proficiency in separating their professional life from their personal life.  They leave their children's soccer schedules, lunches, and lastest homework project; put on their suits, pull out their smartphones, grab their cappuchinos; and head to be people who operate from their compartmentalized work identities.

Our work identities are like avatars.  They have  a specific look, interaction style, and history that are filled with their own emotional storylines.  We feel at work, relate, communicate, and respond.  We cross into this domain effortlessly, like stepping through a transparent wall that separates our home and work worlds.  It wouldn't be a far stretch to accept that there are some of us who may find our home identity to be our avatar.  We feel that we are our truest selves in our professional world.  Either way, we fool ourselves if we think that our emotional being is actually divisible by two.  Try preventing personal emotional trauma from affecting your professional self.  Or, the other way around. 

We have only one emotional self.  How healthy is it? Your effectiveness in leading the heart, soul, and humanity of your organization is only as strong as the strength of your emotional being.

For the next 365 days, after an extremely difficult personal experience and a cataclysmic professional tragedy, I am devoting time and energy to my emotional self.  You will find this path on

I recently realized something startling.  I wanted to take a good picture of my son with my point-and-shoot camera with an unbelievable delay between pressing the button to take the picture and the actual take.  As I was watching through the view, trying to predict what was about to happen in time to actually take the picture, I started noticing things about my son that I had never seen before.  I realized then how little I observe the moment.  I am so good at overthinking things before and after they happen and so bad at reading and responding in the moment. 

I chose photography to frame my emotional journey through the next year.  I bought a higher quality camera and plan to use this medium to document my path.  I don't care about being a great photographer.  Though, as I come upon more sophisticated thoughts, I'll want more sophisticated ways to express them.  I imagine that my improved skill at photography will provide that opportunity.

Monday, January 3, 2011

The Powerful Woman's Fatal Flaw

Powerful Women have a major life-altering flaw. 
They get what they want. 

Everyone's dream?  Maybe.  Anyone's path to self-fulfillment?  Never.  A terrible albatross, it breathes life into the expression power corrupts.

Desires are healthy.  They move us through life, a meandering journey of experiences that shape us.  Healthy desires give us the guidance that allows us to recognize when opportunities present themselves.  But beware the power to make them happen at will.  We think we know what will make us happy and when.  When we use our will to control timing, we fail miserably.

Let's take, for example, the Powerful Woman who chooses a man.  Simple choice.  After all, she makes things happen at will on a daily basis, surely finding the right one is as simple as intentional power.  She chooses and the quest begins.  She changes herself to make the fit.  She makes huge compromises on the very principles that were once critically important to her.  She leaves friends in the wake who watch her small tornado of effort skeptically, wondering where the girl they loved went.

The changes bring temporary gratification. But the small gains of the moment, a series of getting what she wants for that day, week, or month prolong an inevitable discovery, a simple basic truth:  when you have to work that hard at making something happen, it isn't meant to be.  But, of course, a power addict refuses to accept that something isn't meant to be.  Isn't everything simply one act of will away?

The irony of desire is that the more it's fed, the greater it grows.  Just like love, which grows by fulfilled obligation, commitment, and faithful attention, desire grows with each committed and intentional act to get what you want. What a curse to be just successful enough to keep the perception of control alive.  When the crash happens, it happens hard.  For by that time, the object of desire is bigger than life, given far more credit and merit than deserved, and leaves a proportionately large, gaping hole when the floor falls out from beneath. Is it the loss of the object that sends her to the sanitarium? No.  That kind of craving rarely brings any happiness to miss. It is the birth and death, euphoria and despair, of a desire that captured measureless energy and obsession.  The sad truth: she really just took on a battle against herself...and lost.  

Now, all that is left is a simple submissive admission.

The Powerful Woman doesn't always get what she wants in the end.  Nor should she.

Step back and relinquish control sometimes. The best things in life are a gift, not a quest.