Authentic Leadership - Shields Down

authentic leadershipBuilding on my recent blog about leading your strategic mind, let's investigate the next step in developing your capacity to lead from authentic purpose. I'm going to use a Star Trek reference to call this work "shields down" or "de cloaking." The shields in Star Trek were to protect the ship from enemy fire and cloaking was to make the ship invisible. I suggest that as a leader, it’s worthwhile to investigate how these two notions operate in your life. In her book and TED talk, "Lessons From The Mental Hospital," Glennon Doyle Melton demonstrates having done masterful work in recovering her super sensitive, highly aware youthful self after sliding into bulimia, alcoholism and drug addiction to kill the pain of the messy world in which we live. She calls those addictions "superhuman capes," strategies to repel the hurts and become invisible. The key to her recovery was her commitment to be present to her fear and pain and be willing to engage with the "real world."

Her moving presentation becomes personal to the rest of us when she defines the "superhuman cape" as anything that protects our vulnerability. So what's your superhuman cape? A technical or advanced degree? Extreme athletic conditioning? Intellectual capacities? Hard ball attitude? Results-only focus? Workaholism?.I could go on and on but it’s worthwhile effort for you to stand back and see yours. If you don't know how you keep people and the pain of this messy life that makes up real reality at bay, find an honest person who knows you and ask them.

If you've been hiding behind your superhuman cape you may find it nearly impossible to consider setting it aside. Melton speaks to the enormous courage required and borrows a definition from Dr. Brene Brown, "courage is to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart."

Let's juxtapose that definition with another that I refer to constantly from David Whyte, "Courage Is developing a friendship with the unknown." It is going to take a lot of friendship with the unknown for you to de-cloak who you really are with your whole heart because you don't know what will happen. To make matters worse, you have probably recorded painful past experiences or experienced a lot of bad outcomes that justify your hiding inside your supercape.

So what makes it worthwhile? It allows them to share your authentic purpose and choose to freely support you. It strips out the pretense that often goes on and gets in the way of productive interactions. It allows them to risk putting their shields down too. Best of all, it lets you out of your own prison into the light of personal freedom.

Melton declares that the prizes to be won for being vulnerable are peace, dignity & friendship.  Imagine how productively you, your team and your family can interact with those prizes in hand!