An Independent Spirit

“Responsibility to yourself means refusing to let others do your thinking, talking, and naming for you; it means learning to respect and use your own brains and instincts; hence, grappling with hard work."

(Claiming an Education, 1977)”  - Adrienne Rich

A few weeks ago, I had an interesting conversation with my friend, Mike Henry, Sr., about the direction the Lead Change Group (a leadership organization we are both actively involved with) was moving. I hadn’t really taken the time to formulate my thoughts so I could clearly articulate the top ten things on my mind, but one thing was clear to me, I wasn’t sure where I fit in any longer, or if I ever had. This is a regularly recurring thought process for me, in many areas of my life and I’ve spent some time with it over the last few weeks.

Because it’s who I am, more than anything, I feel confident in my election to be an independent spirit. I regularly make the choice to “get off the bus” and I set out to discover for myself what there is to see and do in this gorgeous place called life.

Politically, I seek out good ideas and policies in many different political parties, and I choose not to join any one party in particular. I don’t really care where ideas come from as much as I want to know how they contribute to creating the world I would like to see.

Spiritually, I seek out wisdom from many different sources: a variety of religions (and some would say cults), the sciences, the arts, popular culture, the Internet, and social media. I am less than patient with the common religious attitudes that “my way is the only way.” I’m tired of the endless debates on morality, who is allowed to love whom, same-sex marriage, religious institutions that practice hypocrisy as a way of life, and politicians who are dead set on passing laws to uphold their religious beliefs, their beliefs on survival of the fittest, and their quest for power to the detriment of others. My central belief is that we are here to exhibit compassion and love, to be just, and to celebrate the unity of all life.

As a leader and a coach, I have read hundreds of leadership books, and devoted the better part of my adult life to making an effort to be the kind of leader people would be proud to work with. I have sought wisdom from the likes of Peter Drucker, Ken Blanchard, Jack Welch, John C Maxwell, Marshall Goldsmith, Stephen Covey, Tom Peters, and Warren Bennis. I studied and practiced Six Sigma, Lean Sigma, certified as a trainer for the “Fish Philosophy,” walked my staff through “Who Moved My Cheese?” and spent hundreds of hours in change management seminars. I have faithfully read blogs, articles, and more blogs on “five reasons why….in relationship to leadership, and the people who follow the leaders.

Here is where I have landed: It’s past time for me to get off the bus! Reading books, writing blogs, and interviewing “leadership experts” is just activity we pursue to “prepare us to lead.” The act of leadership often finds us making it up as we go along. The truth is, what works for one person may or may not work for you or me in any given situation. Most of the time, we are required to take thoughtful and relevant action based upon the conditions at the time, and these conditions are unique at any point we wish to look at them.

What follows is my opinion, and I’m sharing it so that those who think the same way I do know that I’m here. I’m not here to convince you that I’m right – because I’m still seeking and practicing the best possible leadership thoughts that work for me; my way is not the only way, and I may not be right. I appreciate you staying with me for the long haul.

There are a few core leadership skills that are required, and work 90% of the time for people who really care about being leaders. The rest is rhetoric designed to obfuscate people’s perceptions of what currently passes for leadership in our government, our corporations, our schools, and churches. Very little of what we read is new thought. It is the application of what we’ve always done, giving us the results we’ve always gotten – and it doesn’t appear to be working.

What are these top ten skills, you laughingly ask?

  1. Listen more than you talk.
  2. Recognition that everyone brings something of value to the table, and deserves to be heard. Inclusiveness.
  3. Honesty and a fearlessness in sharing your thoughts and ideas with the full knowledge that you will be heard. And, acknowledgment that you may not be right - being open to others’ thoughts and ideas.
  4. Listen more than you talk.
  5. Practice compassion, and unconditional love.
  6. Being grateful for all that you have been given, and willing to share what you have.
  7. Being just – always – but not judgmental.
  8. Don’t take anything personally.
  9. Celebrate the unity of life – joyfully.
  10. Hold everyone accountable – including yourself!

It’s our job as members of the Lead Change Group to provide viable role models to our children and young adults on HOW to be a great leader. This doesn’t mean writing books, blogs, or much of the activities we are actively engaged in on a daily basis. It means living and breathing these leadership skills we hold dear. It means practicing, revising, and practicing more – being willing to admit when we fail, and talk about what we learned. It means living a powerful life of compassion and love, and helping others to do the same. It means seeking justice, but not judgment. It means celebrating all that we are, all that we have and all that we give.


How do you practice your independence of thought in leadership?

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