Consider this situation: two women are losing their father to cancer. For Eloise, the journey is terrifying and overwhelming. Her life is so busy, packed with the demands of her job and the challenge of raising three children. She does her best to care for him but she finds it difficult to talk about what is happening inside her. He’s so sick and she doesn’t want to bother him. When her father passes away, she feels a deep sadness and a vast emptiness.
For Janis, the journey is one of heartbreak and transformation. She has a full life with a demanding job and the challenge of raising her children but she wants to spend as much time with her dad as possible. She enlists the support of friends and family, and she and her dad face the journey together. They talk often about what death really means to them and when he passes, she feels a deep sadness and also tremendous gratitude for the gift of sharing this important passage.
These two stories feature the same situation, yet, the experience of the two women is completely different. And, it perfectly exemplifies how we all have the power to be leaders in our lives. We all have the power to “create our world.”
It is for this reason that today’s commonly held definition of leader no longer fits. Say the word “leader” and people automatically think of CEOs, managers and presidents. The word is confined to job titles and roles; thus, it wastes leadership ability that is present throughout an organization, not just at the top.
We invite you to turn this one-dimensional, top-down definition on its head and harness the possibility of many rather than relying on the power of one. We invite you to realize that we are all leaders in our lives. We all have the ability to “create our world.”
Eloise and Janis were in the same situation with the same pressures and responsibilities. However, their responses varied greatly and thus, so did the outcomes. Janis realized her leadership potential in her life. Sadly, Eloise did not.
No more follow the leader
Everyone has within them the capacity to lead, and any organization or community is most dynamic, most alive and most productive when there is a commitment to leadership at every level. We all share full responsibility for the experience we generate and our sense of personal power and fulfillment is directly commensurate with the level of ownership we are able to take for what happens to and around us.
We don’t have much to say about the challenges, hardships and disasters that befall us. This is the stuff that our lives are made of. However, we do have everything to say about how we engage and who we are in the events of our lives, about whether we offer ourselves or put our head in the sand, about whether we seek to serve or give way to blame. We get to choose whether we will take responsibility for the world we are creating.
In this way, we have a kind of power that cannot be given to us and therefore cannot be taken away. Life is no longer just happening to us. We are co-creators and we share in the challenge and joy of shaping our world to reflect our own values and purpose. With this new definition of leadership, imagine the untapped potential that lies within your organizations — and your lives.
Henry and Karen Kimsey-House are co-founders of the Coaches Training Institute, a global coaching and leadership development organization offering programs in 18 different countries around the world. Their new book, “Co-Active Leadership: Five Ways to Lead,” out this September, provides a leadership model that harnesses the possibility of many, rather than relying on the power of one. They are also co-authors of “Co-Active Coaching: Changing Business, Transforming Lives.” Now in its third edition, Co-Active Coaching has been translated into 15 languages and is required reading for coach training programs at colleges and universities around the world. For more information and best practices related to Co-Active Leadership, visit CoActive.com.
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