The Introduction to the awarding winning book:
You are the Leader You’ve Been Waiting For
When the Lights Go Out
I was just sitting there when the lights went out. I was working as a middle manager at a Fortune 100 company and I had been summoned to make a presentation to a group of senior executives. The meeting room had no windows, walls covered with a dreary gray fabric, and carpet that was equally bland. I was seated in one of the molded plastic chairs lining one wall that were reserved for visiting lower level managers waiting to make presentations. The executives sat in padded leather chairs around a wide conference table.
As I sat there waiting, only half-listening to the conversation that droned around the table, we were plunged into darkness.
The company had installed motion-sensitive lights in all the conference rooms in an effort to save money on utility bills. This meant that the lights would go off automatically when there was no movement in the room. In this meeting, physical movement had ceased to the degree that the sensors assumed nobody was in the room. And so the lights went out.
In a sense, no one was present. There were bodies in the chairs but those bodies were so inanimate as to be undetectable by the sensors. If movement is a sign of life, then this meeting was lifeless.
Many people feel that all life has ebbed from their work. They still show up, complete the tasks, and check off the to-do list. But they have the sense that the lights, if not out, have dimmed.
Who Turns on the Light?
Light is an ancient symbol for consciousness and life. Everyday language has many reminders of the power of light. Confusion is known as being in the dark. When you are in a dark mood, you are depressed and when you are very happy, you are radiant. Enlightenment is associated with the highest degree of awareness and wisdom.
When the light — consciousness and vitality — of your work darkens, your sense of purpose, direction, and value dims. You may feel like you are in the dark, stumbling along, banging your knees into the furniture. Turning the lights back on – reconnecting to the inspiration, energy, and focus that brings life to your work – is the essential act of leadership.
In organizations around the world, I have met people who are waiting for a leader to come and turn on the lights– to fix things for them, inspire them, make work more meaningful and fulfilling. Great leaders, teachers, mentors or role models can point the way but they cannot transform your work for you. You are the leader you’ve been waiting for. In the end it is your own choices that will improve your work life. You have the capacity to lead yourself to a work life of purpose and meaning. You do this by awakening the authentic leader inside you.
Authentic leadership is the pursuit of excellence (high performance) and meaning, integrity, and joy (high fulfillment). It is a path of action and reflection that brings these two factors – performance and fulfillment– together for your benefit and the benefit of the people you work with and serve. In your most purposeful and meaningful work experiences, performance and fulfillment unite:
High Performance + High Fulfillment =
Creating Desired Results with Meaning, Joy, and Integrity
High Performance is your power to create the work and life you want. High Performance is about actively pursuing your goals and bringing them to fruition. The performance side of the equation engages you in the creative process of making your visions real.
High Fulfillment is your experience of meaning, joy, and integrity in the process of creating. Fulfillment is your inner experience of work. The fulfillment side of the equation attunes you to the degree of congruence between your actions and your values and guides you towards deeper levels of integrity.
This book is an exploration into the dynamics of high performance and high fulfillment that will provide you with principles and practices that you can use to deepen your awareness, sharpen your skills, expand your capacity to create what matters most in your work, and awaken the authentic leader inside you.
Awakening Your Leadership Potential
It is easy in the midst of constant pressures of work and unremitting change in organizations to want to stay asleep to your own leadership potential — to withdraw, disengage, or even turn cynical. It is easy but neither effective nor fulfilling.
Following the path of authentic leadership is a way of being that will transform your life. When you are on this path, you intentionally work to express your values in your daily actions. You consciously use and develop your unique gifts. You align with a deeper calling so that your personal transformation positively impacts those around you. Your own growth as an authentic leader actively enriches the world you work in.
Authentic leadership is determined neither by position nor title, but by the depth of awareness, skill, and presence you bring to your actions and interactions. “Don’t look for spectacular actions,” said Mother Teresa. “What is important is the gift of yourself. It is the degree of love you insert in your deeds.” This is available to each of us regardless of position or status. The leadership that is the subject of this book is a way of being. It is a way of engaging with the world from your deepest self.
I have asked hundreds and hundreds of workshop participants to recall people they admire who have positively influenced their lives – personally and professionally. I ask them what they admire most about these individuals. Their answers never focus on titles or positions, but on character—on qualities like creativity, love, integrity, courage, compassion, vision, humor, spirituality, service, and wisdom. Pursuing the path of authentic leadership will transform your work by re-awakening – within yourself – those qualities that you see in those you most admire. These are the very qualities that will bring more light to your work.
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