What kind of leader are you? Do you seek to stir up people with anger and violence or do you seek to inspire them with understanding and love? Great leaders come from a framework of faith. We see the beauty as well as the possibilities of the present moment. This appreciative frame is always possible, no matter how difficult or tenuous the moment might be. And it makes a difference to do so. The confidence of leaders translates into the hope of people. After reading this Provision, I hope you will be inspired to take up the ball and run with it.
Once a year, LifeTrek Provisions comes out on Easter Sunday, that day when Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Whatever you think of that story • as an existential event, a metaphorical mystery, a scandalous scheme, a diabolical deception, or something else entirely • one thing is certain: it has fueled the hearts and minds of millions of people ever since it started to circulate, about two thousand years ago.
Why is that? Why does the “idle tale” of a few grieving women turn into one of the biggest phenomena of history? The answer, at least in part, has something to do with hope. Not only does the story speak to our primordial fears as to what happens after we die (if Jesus rose from the dead, then perhaps we can too), it also speaks to our basic needs as to what happens in life (if Jesus rose from the dead, then perhaps his life was not in vain). For those who believe in it, the story gives people reason to hope that following in Jesus’ footsteps is a good idea.
Hope is a powerful force and people the world over are thirsting to have more of it in their lives. It’s easy to become discouraged, depressed, and despairing as to whether or not things are going to work out all right. From the powerful to the powerless, and everyone in between, hope fuels the world. Why bother to get up in the morning if we have no hope? Why bother to save or to set aside things for the future? Why bother to sacrifice our life for a cause? Why bother to do anything at all if we have no hope?
It has been said that getting up in the morning is an act of faith. I agree. It is, in one sense, a way of staking our claim in the world. Whatever it is that we are about, getting up in the morning and going about our business is a way of saying, “Here I am, let’s move.” And so we go. If we are honest with ourselves, we recognize that nothing is ever guaranteed or completely under our control. Ours is but to do our best and to hope for the best.
Those who take comfort in the resurrection of Jesus may think they have a supernatural power on their side. Even so, as they themselves would admit, there are no guarantees this side of the grave. Even with God on their side, hope still plays an important role. God may influence the course of events, more often than not by influencing the hearts and minds of people, but human beings are not marionettes and God does not pick the winners and losers of penultimate battles. By whatever name you may call upon God, including no name at all, much is unknown when it comes to the course of life itself.
Understanding the uncertainties of life, leaders make a point of communicating confidence. There may be, in fact, no more important function of leadership. Faith matters. Leaders believe that a team, organization, school, company, or country has what it takes to succeed and then they loan that confidence to their players, members, staff, employees, or citizens. The faith of leaders turns into the hope of people.
So where does that faith come from? For some leaders, it is a life position, a framework, a spiritual orientation. It is a sense that everything will always be OK, no matter what happens. That may seem contradictory, since leaders are often responsible for carrying and executing a variety of visions, plans, and goals, but hope does not depend upon outcomes. When great dreams fail to materialize, great leaders find ways to appreciate what does materialize.
To borrow a phrase, great leaders know how to turn lemons into lemonade. And we do that not just through persevering, working harder, or finding a way around the disappointment. Great leaders find ways to appreciate the disappointment itself. Things may not have turned out the way we wanted or the way we planned, but what can we celebrate about the way things turned out? What silver linings can we see? How can we pick up the pieces and move forward in hope?
Great leaders have a knack for doing this, no matter what. Just to be clear: this is not the same thing as the “power of positive thinking.” It is not about putting on “rose colored glasses” in order to pretend there are no problems or to paint over problems as though they were no big deal. Problems are real and they hurt. But they are never the whole story.
The following maxim illustrates the point I am trying to make. The optimist looks at the glass and calls it “half full.” The pessimist looks at the glass and calls it “half empty.” The artist looks at the glass and calls it “beautiful.” Artists appreciate its many wonderful qualities, just the way it is. In that sense, great leaders are artists. Instead of evaluating and assessing whether or not things measure up, as half full or half empty, great leaders observe reality, suspend judgment, appreciate its beauty, and move on in faith.
What faith? Faith that beauty can always be found. Faith that no situation and no turn of events is ever completely devoid of goodness and possibility. Faith that tall trees grow from the tiniest of seeds. Faith that life is always perfect, just the way it is, even when it’s obviously not.
I know that sounds like another contradiction in terms, but such faith is an essential aspect of great leadership. Great leaders see the beauty and believe in the possibilities. We realize that life is always a work in progress, and that there is no way to get from here to there other than by going through the now. That’s what makes the present perfect. It is the only moment we have to work with, and it can’t be any different than the way it is or it wouldn’t be at all. So we may as well appreciate what it has to offer and move on accordingly.
Each of us has the opportunity to be a great leader, in this sense. It’s not just the people at the top of the food chain who need to pay attention to these dynamics. It’s all of us, since all of us are leaders in the positions we hold. From the top to the bottom and everywhere in between, our attitude and approach to life affect everyone around us. If we see no beauty or possibility, then others may see no beauty or possibility. If we despair, then others may despair. If we give up hope, then others may give up hope.
So don’t let that happen. Especially on this day of days. If those early Christians could still find hope after the death of their leader, then we can still find hope no matter what happens in our world. When things don’t go our way, or don’t turn out the way we want, becoming angry and violent is the opposite of leadership. Such attributes may provoke but they fail to inspire others. They may agitate but they fail to appreciate. They may launch armies but they fail to win wars.
The kind of leadership our world needs today is rooted in faith. Faith in the simple notion that goodness can always be found and, like the smallest spark, can always be fanned into a warming fire. If you’ve been feeling rather cold lately, then perhaps it’s time to start thinking, feeling, and acting like a leader. Perhaps it’s time to take stock, to take heart, and to take off. Perhaps it’s time to celebrate the best in order to bring out the best in life and work.
Coaching Inquiries: In what situations and in what respects do you hold positions of leadership? What do you see and what do you believe is possible in those positions? How can you come from a more appreciative frame? How can you share your faith with others so as to inspire hope, confidence, and love?
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LifeTrek Readers’ Forum (selected feedback from the past week)
Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Form or Email Bob.
I just finished watching your YouTube videos. Kudos to you! One of my favorite segments from the Evocative Coaching video was about the student who was disappointed when she could not find any advice to give the teacher that she was coaching. Nothing was “wrong”. I found myself remembering how confused I was when I was first exposed to the idea that focusing on strengths was more useful than focusing on problems. I kept thinking, “Yeah, but what if you’re so busy focusing on strengths that you forget to attend to a problem and disaster ensues” ? I am not sure when I made the shift, but now it is second nature for me to be asking myself (and others) “What is the best, cleverest, most fun thing that can happen here?”
Another comment that stayed with me from the video was the concept of the “Golden Sigh.” That moment when we realize we can set our burden down. I know it well, and I love it.
In watching your YouTube videos I especially identified with your distinction of request versus demands. It parallel’s something that my fianc• and I have been learning about and discussing within the boundaries of our relationship in consideration of the successes and failures of our pasts. We have been discussing the concept of dreams versus expectations. That so often prior to marriage we have so many dreams and then once you tie the knot those dreams no longer are dreams but become expectations.
Then, when expectations fail to be met suddenly there is disappointment which results in dissatisfaction. If you don’t have good communication skills, listening skills, and resolution strategies this dissatisfaction then grows into a small fire which may smolder but can then become more intense if fueled by increasing disappointment. The best thing that I have learned in my years of successes and failures is that “listening” is the best part of the story because you take the time to really listen so that you can practice empathy, experience inquiry and creatively design direction.
May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.
Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC
President, LifeTrek Coaching International, www.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformation, www.SchoolTransformation.com
Immediate Past President, International Association of Coaching, www.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a Time, Online Retailers
Address: 121 Will Scarlet Lane, Williamsburg, VA 23185-5043
Phone: (757) 345-3452 • Fax: (772) 382-3258
Skype: LifeTrek • Twitter: @LifeTrekBob
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