Archive for November, 2009

Resting potential

I do not have time to be writing this post. Officially, declaratively, do not have time. I would tell you all the things I need to accomplish but I am sure that by the time I was done with that nap time would be over. So, why am I here? Becuase dear, dear light Scott posted a very excellent and inspiring post that actually got me a little fired up. Believe it or not, there isn’t a whole lot of fired up going on over here (what? with the complete lack of posting?! no way!) so I am trying to catch this little spark before it flies away.

Light Scott ponders: what is leadership? A talent? A skill? A calling? Can you run out? Fill up? Run up a deficit?

My theory today: it is a potential space. It is a capacity, it is something waiting to happen. When the right situation presents itself, that potential space expands and gets filled with energy. The downside being, at a certain point something changes, and that space actually begins to drain energy – from you, from the people around you, from the project or whatever you were serving. And what the hell are you supposed to do then? Well, I think you have to stop. Stop leading, stop draining energy, stop carving out space for this project to live. It might mean an afternoon away or it might mean years off doing something else. I think that a very great many organizations and projects and cultural institutions are damaged – sometimes irrevocably – by people who do not see that the energy is now flowing the other way and it is time to close that space off and let someone else whose potential space is ready to channel that energy step in. I didn’t want to be that kind of leader who is holding something back instead of pushing something forward, and so I stepped down. Where does that leave me, a nameless, slightly older student in a lecture of 400 people?  Am I still a leader? Am I called to do something?

I do think that I have a capacity for leadership that is … an asset. A skill. Ingrained to the point of being a personality trait, perhaps. I know that I am capable of being a really excellent, hard working follower, but only when the leader is someone I truly trust and respect. I don’t consciously lead for attention or power or personal gain, but generally because I can see what needs to be done, how it should be done, and get people on board (and keep them there) until it is getting done. When I can’t do that, I get very frustrated and really should just go. I lead to get things accomplished, and accomplished the “right” way.

So if I am not leading, what happens to that potential space? Today, and most of the past few weeks, actually, I have been trying to wrap my head around this. I know I am not my grades. I know that scoring perfectly on every test will not make me a better person, a more worthy person, or a more loved person. See how I can type that in English and it is perfectly understandable? Unfortunately, believing it is something else all together. So I  have been trying to go through the back door and say – but I am this! and this, and this, and therefore this number on the page does not accurately describe me as a person. I guess it’s kind of working, no panic attacks in the test yesterday, so there you go! On the other hand, it is very hard to define yourself as an adult in America without a career. Yes, I am a mother and it is the most important job in the world blah blah blah… from where I am standing now, that is a a vital, central part of me but it is not the entirety of my existence, and I think I am better at it when I have other work to do as well. But what is my work? I do feel called to lead, but still… lead what? lead who? lead where? I am fumbling in the dark with this one.

Sometimes, I sense that I have a calling. A life path. A story arc. Whatever you want to call it. I can’t see it, but I can feel it, just over there, waiting for me to turn the corner and figure it out. If leading were enough just in and of itself, I would still be doing what I was doing. That was plenty of decision making and responsibility, if not much money or glory. But it wasn’t the best fit, and the energy was draining so quickly that honestly,  I think it was best for everyone that I left when I did, if not sooner. Now I feel like I have been hollowed out by that experience, that there is a new and larger possibility there waiting for the right need, the right situation, the right call, and I am just going to have to wait until it finds me. In the meantime, I am going to have to build myself up so that I’m ready when I figure it out. I have a lot of knowledge to acquire, even if right now I really don’t know how I am going to use it. I think that I know this is going to take years to figure out, if only because there is a tiny person who needs me to be responsive and flexible and full of energy for him right now… and I think whatever happens, it is eventually going to be big. For me, if no one else.

As tired as I am, it kind of gets me excited to think about it. Whatever is coming next.

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