I once wrote a newsletter to friends using each letter of the alphabet to share an item of family news. Here is an extract of two of the news items that appeared under ‘V’ and ‘W’ – not easy letters to lead with, I might add:
What should I write here? I cheerfully ask Vicky who enters the room. After she reads the above paragraph (to get the context) I’m afraid I cannot print her reply. She leaves the room and abandons me to further ponder the causal connection between humour, the mysterious nature of women and the likelihood of dinner.
Many have tried to write an ABC to parenting, in much the same way that others have attempted to do so for leadership, seeking a bottled formula that is as easy to apply as cutting oneself shaving, and one which guarantees success.
I usually cringe at both, yet have to concede that there is some benefit to be had in reading such ‘how to’ literature. But it has been my experience that everyone, parent and leader alike, essentially has to work it out for themselves. If there is to be a starting point, an ‘A’, then it surely must be the age-old adage, ‘Know yourself’ (Socrates it was who gifted us with this wisdom). To ‘know’ yourself liberates you to ‘be’ yourself. Leadership can so easily become like those old distorting mirrors that change you as you stand in front of them. Knowing yourself, your strengths, weaknesses, likings and limitations is the raw material from which authenticity is crafted.
Of course to ‘know yourself’ is easier said than done, but here are some questions that might assist you on a journey that is as compelling as it is challenging, and one that is certainly not without its rewards:
• With whom or what are you competing?
• How would you like to be remembered?
• What in your life/work makes you feel alive, gives you energy, renews your heart/spirit?
• What in your life/work makes you feel diminished, saps your energy, weighs heavily on your heart/spirit?
• What is your sense of vocation/calling in life?
• Were you to map your life to this point in time as a river, what would that river look like? (This question is best answered as a reflective exercise in which you actually take time to draw the river, depicting the rapids, waterfalls, still waters and so on)
• In what ways has your life journey been like receiving a gift?
• In what ways has it been hard work?
• What does God think of you?
• What do you think of yourself?
Leaders need to remain curious; and questions fuel curiosity. As a leader, learn to ask good questions: of yourself… and of others!