A five year old girl sits in a rocking chair, looking at her mother through her tears.
“You said you’d never lie to me.”
Of course not, reassures the mother, unsure what is the matter.
“Is Santa real?”
The mother, unprepared for this question so early, hesitates.
The little girl demands the truth through her sobs. Until the mother sadly and silently shakes her head.
“The Easter bunny? The tooth fairy?”
Christmas at age four, with my new Holly Hobbie doll.
Again and again, the mother shakes her head, the last of her daughter’s belief in magic fading away. The magic may have ended, but she had reinforced her belief in integrity. Something that would hold her much longer than a belief in Santa Claus ever could.
Yes, I am that little girl. The one who challenged older kids that Santa must be real, because my parents wouldn’t lie to me. The one that demanded the truth, because knowing I could believe in them was more important than my need to believe in magic.
As leaders, our teams have to trust that we operate with integrity. Without it, our leadership is as real as Santa Claus.
Have you ever heard “because I said so?” I remember telling myself, “when I become a parent, I will never use those words.”
There’s a reason why always and never should not be used lightly.
The challenge with very young children is, it takes a while to develop the ability to reason. So, like the parent I aspired to be, I took the time to explain why. Maybe explain again. And again.
Eventually, one day, I lost my patience with “why”. There was an important lesson happening – like running with scissors – and the very reasonable explanations were not getting through. I finally ended the discussion with “because I said so.”
Now we’re to age seven, and our son’s cognitive ability has developed to the point where he has his own good reasons why he does and does not want to do something. I’m just waiting for the day that I hear from him “because I said so.”
This week, I had the great fortune to attend the 2014 Mass Conference for Women.
Throughout the day, I took copious notes and tweeted more than I have in years. There were so many moments that rang true. So many that made me sit back and think “I KNOW this!” or “I thought I was the only one.”
In some cases, the moments were a kick in the pants, and others were like a lightbulb going off in my head or my heart.
I cannot possibly express how much energy was coming off the 10K women at the event, or how much it filled me. If it’s any indication, this is the first time I have written in 3 months. It was just the rejuvenation – and revelation – I needed after ignoring how low my energy levels have gotten recently.
One of the sessions that stood out for me was called “Claiming your Happiness” – a session led by Cindy Ratzlaff and Kathy Kinney, authors of Queen of your Own Life. In the last two days, I must have shared insights from this session with at least a dozen people – hopefully this resonates with you as well.
Sometimes simple things bring the most joy. Photo of me by Arnie Zann.
Why this session? While I look around my life and think that I should be happy, sometimes I’m not. There have been times in my life when I have been joyfully blissful for who I am, where I am and the life I have. Other times, I have been miserable, and unsure how to find my way back to that place of bliss.
I feel uncomfortable talking out that bad place, because from the outside in, there is no obvious reason for me to be unhappy. I fear that it will seem like meaningless nonsense to someone else who has much greater challenges than I do.
The idea that happiness can be claimed – that I could figure it out by myself – was very appealing.
As discussed last week, it is difficult, if not impossible, for leaders to lead others if we do not lead ourselves.
Whether implicitly or explicitly, leaders are accountable – we assume responsibility for the outcomes of our teams. For achieving the organization’s goals through the execution of others.
What is Personal Accountability?
Personal accountability is a step beyond the expectations of the role. It is about our own personal commitment to getting the job done. Regardless of who is doing the work.
Leadership is not just about how we lead others. It is also about how we lead ourselves.
It is difficult to genuinely care for others, for example, if we do not also care for ourselves.
While we may put ourselves last occasionally (or regularly, but that’s a story for another day), we must apply the same leadership principles to ourselves if we want to make them core to who we are and how we lead.
Empowerment is a perfect example of this concept.