Guest Post by Shandel Slaten – I spoke at Shandel’s brainchild today, 2010 Women’s Leadership Summit in Seattle and can’t wait to share what I learned … tomorrow. Tonight, I’m hanging with my family and feeling energized by all of my newfound knowledge. Until then, enjoy Shandel’s Guest Post.
The continual pursuit of excellence in leadership fascinates and inspires me. In my simple way, I have observed there are flashy firework leaders and steadfast star leaders. The firework leaders are ones that come out with a bang, a spark, and a flash of brilliance that “ooooos” and “aaaaahs” the crowds as they are mesmerized by the exciting new light in the sky. All attention and admiration is completely focused on the show and the star-filled sky is forgotten and disregarded while the fireworks display their magic. However, the fireworks quickly die out and fade away after their burst of showmanship. Meanwhile, the stars still shine as they always have and provide consistent, steady, predictable beauty and guidance. Did you ever hear of someone navigating through stormy seas by fireworks? No, that’s ridiculous. Neither do people depend on firework leaders when they really need guidance and effective direction. Similiar to the sailor, we look to the steadfast stars to bring us through the turbulent times in our own personal or corporate lives. (read more after the jump by clicking the link below ….)
How then are star leaders born, or shall I say bred? I think it is through experiencing brokenness, being teachable, and enduring trials that people gain the lasting confidence, strength, and character required to be an effective leader. If you had the opportunity to see the latest Lord of the Rings movie, Return of the King, you will recall Aragon’s sword, Narsil, which lie in pieces. At just the right time, the sword was subjected first to the blazing melding fire and then to pounding of the hammer. Over and over it endured the trials of heat, pressure, and beating, but every blow was purposeful and every minute in the fire was refining the sword that it could be used for a higher purpose. That sword was a symbol of leadership. Was it any less valuable broken? I say no. Its value and worth were always there; lying latent, waiting for the opportunity to be made whole and useful. What it lacked was purpose and guidance on how to be used for the common good.
Like Aragon’s sword, I believe that only after you’ve been broken and endured refining fires and molding trials do you possess the confidence to lead forth with purpose and a true sense of usefulness. Otherwise, you may try to imitate the strength you believe a leader SHOULD have from all those books you’ve read and try to “act” like a leader with purpose, but you know the truth: your efforts resemble the fireworks or short bursts of light more than the lasting, steady brilliance of the stars. You’re not fooling anyone and here’s a sample list of what may be giving your firework show away: arrogance, “feeling “powerful, demanding to be served, out of control emotions, putting others down so you can feel better about yourself, and the need for more, more, more. Believe me if you’ve fooled them at the office, you haven’t fooled them at home. Oh people may “oooo” and “aaaah” for awhile and serve you out of fear, but soon the flash of lights will fade and once the show is over (and someday the show will be over) those you thought your fans will sigh with relief to be free from the tyranny. They will look for that leader who is a bright shining star that will humbly and confidently lead them toward “true north.”
As we enter this new quarter, be honest with yourself and evaluate if you are more like a firework or a star leader to those looking up at you? What can you do in this next year to be teachable, “coachable” (if you will) and moldable so that you won’t miss the opportunity to become a leader with purpose and be used for the good of all mankind? Maybe you’ve so confused flashes of light for true success that you’re not sure where you’re headed or if people are following or if they are, in which direction the ship is sailing. Slow down, breathe, get help, relax, and listen. Look up from your daily routines and busyness, find the big dipper, and then follow it to the North Star. You’ll always find true north if you look up from where life has you and make the effort to seek guidance or tools necessary to persevere through trials and the wisdom required to be a purpose-filled leader.
For more about Shandel Slaten, visit her webiste True Life Coaching.