“Leadership involves living in a state of possibility, making a commitment to a vision, developing relationships to move the vision into action, and sustaining a high level of integrity. Effective leadership takes place in the context of a community and results in positive change. “ –LeaderShape, definition of leadership
I just returned from the best week of my professional life, and I almost don’t even know how to capture with words what I experienced. I just spent a week in Boston, MA at a beautiful retreat center serving as a Cluster Facilitator with LeaderShape.
LeaderShape is a leadership program that has been helping college students discover themselves, their visions, and their potential for 25 years.
I would love to capture for you all I gained from this experience, but alas, there are some things words cannot do. So all I can really tell you is find a way to go to LeaderShape.
Simply click on the link above and learn more about how you can be a part of LeaderShape by attending as a student, facilitating as a professional, bringing the entire program to your campus, or even donating to this incredible non-profit.
While it’s difficult to encompass what LeaderShape was like, I want to pose some questions that I thought a lot about this week that I hope will help you as they helped me.
The answers to these questions will be as varied as those who dare to ask them of themselves. The key is to listen to your answer.
1.Who do you want to be?
Often in life we are asked “what do you want to do?” I am guilty of asking this almost on a daily basis to students I work with and I have to catch myself. It’s not that this is inherently a bad question, but beneath its surfaces lies a pervading message that who you are is what you do. And for people like me, that can spur us into an abyss of identity crisis and failure, wondering if we are “doing” or seeking to do the “right” thing.
The next time someone asks you what you want to do, take that time to ask yourself instead, “who do I want to be?”
2.What are your strengths?
I feel like I am constantly on a journey to discover what I’m really good at. I’ve taken a variety of strength and personality tests, and have intentionally paid attention to what I excel at in life and what I don’t (e.g. geography – I literally didn’t realize Boston was on the east coast until I clicked to the “where are you now” channel on JetBlue that showed our flight progress - embarrassing).
While I don’t spend my energies on endeavors that require adept spatial understanding, I am constantly trying to figure out what I am really good at and how I can spend more time on and make greater contributions with those strengths.
What are you good at? What do people often compliment you on? What parts of your personality do you love? How are you using those things in your current and future pursuits?
3.Where is your pain and how can it be turned into passion?
I’ve always found some of the greatest contributions to our world have stemmed from knowing some kind of pain. From those that have known in some way something unfair, unjust, hurtful, ugly, who - once healed of that pain and empowered in their own potential - are able to create beauty in a place of darkness.
What tough things have happened in your life? What things do you see that could be better? Do any of those, coupled with your strengths, sound like something where you could make an impact?
4.Are you directing your energy towards problems or possibilities?
The most powerful lesson I drew from LeaderShape was when, in illustrating vision, they showed a few minutes of MLK Jr’s classic “I Have a Dream” speech. They highlighted the fact that in creating vision, he didn’t focus much of his inspiration and energy on the problem – a problem and a persecution so great and worthy of hatred – but on a vision for what could be.
I am guilty of focusing on problems, lamenting about what is, instead of refocusing on what could be. Instead of asking what can I do about it? If nothing, maybe I should stop complaining.
But more often than not, there is something – albeit how simple – that I can do. From a change in attitude to a drastic alternation, frustration can often be a wonderful precursor to positive growth.
What do you find yourself complaining about? Is there a solution in that strife? Is there a better way you could direct that energy?
5.Are you pursuing wealth or richness?
There was a video at LeaderShape that illustrated a man who built a business he measured not by profits, but by the amount of people he helped. How do you measure your success? How do you measure your worth?
I know we’ve heard a billion times that when people are on their deathbed they are not worrying about work or wealth, but as much as we hear it and know it, do we let it affect how we live day to day?
Whew okay so I know that was deep. I can’t help it, I had to go there, because this week really helped me dig into the depths of many things and there was simply nothing else I could write about.
Answering these questions this week helped me feel renewed and excited to go back to the “real world.” Excited to live and contribute. I hope that wherever you are in life, the same excitement finds you.