Seeds of Leadership

When you work as a career coach, clients don’t tend to call you when things are going well. Rather, you become a professional repository for every grievance large or small.

And I hear you.

Many of you feel micromanaged, overlooked, disrespected, or even bullied at work. I’ve listened to your stories and, sadly, these themes emerge so often they barely surprise me anymore.

When I was coaching exclusively, not a day went by it seemed when I didn’t ask a disgruntled employee some version of the same two questions:

What about this situation can you control?

What about your company are you unwilling to tolerate?

The point behind this exercise was to help clients see that they aren’t victims of their circumstances and, thus, can reclaim their power whenever they choose. Over the years I’ve written about this a lot (here and here for example) but what I haven’t sufficiently explored yet is the connection between how little leadership training we are given during formative years and how much damage this causes later in life.

Again, how can we expect ourselves and others to excel at something we haven’t been taught? 

We complain about a lack of wisdom, compassion, and integrity in our leaders but it’s not as if our collective leadership crisis sprang up overnight. Hardly. The world we live in is the result of a moral compass that has been slowly eroding for years – and this is what happens when we disengage from the process of leadership ourselves.

Let me share something with you I learned while working on Who Says It’s a Man’s World. The subtitle to that book “The Girls’ Guide to Corporate Domination” was a major turnoff to scores of women who had no interest in being the boss.

Obviously, I knew going into the writing that not everyone aspires to lead. What surprised me, however, was that this would be a constant drumbeat in boardrooms across the country. I recognize that I’m only presenting anecdotal evidence on one gender here – but I still think it speaks to the larger issue.

We cannot expect great leaders to emerge from environments where leadership isn’t studied, supported, or modeled.

In our homes, schools, offices, and governments, we clearly need all hands on deck now – a moment that could be primed for spectacular advancement if we were actually teaching people how to right the ship. (We are doing this in pockets, yes, but on a grander scale, there is still much work to be done.)

This is why “be the change” is more than just a catchy saying, it’s a call to action.

Rather than wait for top-down initiatives or approval, it’s up to each of us to show that leadership isn’t about control, it’s about love. Love of purpose, love of one another, and – ultimately – love of Self. I know this isn’t the most palatable definition of leadership in the context of business, but it’s the conversation we need to be having about it in our own mind.

What are you doing to create an environment that makes you proud?

What are you doing to create an environment that doesn’t make you proud?

These are the questions we need to be asking, not only in our workplaces, but with our children so that they grow up fluent in this language – and with the seeds of leadership firmly planted. As the saying goes, the best time to plant a seed was yesterday, but the second best time is today.