Everyday Leadership: The Shift to Awesome
I’ve worked with leaders on all kinds of levels – from wonderful little 5th graders who sold lemonade to raise funds to help those wrecked by a Tsunami half way 'round the world, to CEO’s, to my wife Jennifer who was Governor of the State of Michigan for eight years.
Nearly all of them made what I call a “shift to awesome.” Sometimes there was a dramatic event, often a tragic one, that triggered them to alter their thinking and stance toward the world. Sometimes the shift came over time. Often they had to work to keep shifting back into this new mindset.
In this video, I share how my shift came about, how my life had changed dramatically on the outside, but it took me a while to realize it on the inside.
I’d love to hear if you have made such a shift, if it was sudden or gradual, and what you’ve done to sustain the new perspective and outlook.
The shift I am talking about is a shift to a standpoint of leadership. In fact, if you don’t feel silly doing it, try making this shift physically.
You can even watch yourself in a mirror: Start by standing with your weight back, on your heels, not quite leaning back, but with the balls of your feet almost coming up. You should feel flexible, like you could raise your hands up if something came at you, or you could turn your shoulders just a little to get out of the way.
Now gradually shift your weight forward, to the pure midpoint, and then forward just enough so that your heels come slightly off the ground, like you’re perfectly ready to move.
That’s it! That’s the shift.
This is a metaphor-plus. It’s an image of going from passivity - where the world happens to you – to a stance of activity, where you happen to the world.
Everyday leaders happen to the world, not the other way around. I say “metaphor-plus” because getting used to this physical feeling of adjusting your weight forward -- so that you’re ready to move forward -- is great preparation to get your mind moving in the same way.
And here are the two key mental shifts I invite you to practice:
1. Live on purpose. Keep leaning into life by asking what your purpose is in any given situation. For instance, someone on your committee makes a sarcastic remark about an important project? Grrr. Stay on purpose, not on defense. Re-fix on moving forward, on the goal! Or you’ve just had a tough argument with your teenager? Let go of the backwards-looking guilt or the frustration that’s knocking you backwards and ask: What’s my purpose? What am I trying to get done? Get up on the balls of your feet and move ahead.
2. Ask: Whose world can I change today? Sometimes the problems feel too big! Deficits, health care, drugs, terrorism, and the stuff in our own daily worlds, like finding the energy for work and kids and aging parents. It can feel overwhelming. Great everyday leaders, though, make a second shift from worrying “do I have enough” (e.g., money, energy, time), to “whose world can I change?” They shift from self to others.
You wonder: Sure, but with what am I to give to others when there doesn’t seem enough for me and mine?
What I have found is that the little things are what often make a difference in others’ worlds. And the remarkable thing is that what we give –- especially the important things like care, attention, and love -– are not used up, but actually grow as we give them away.
Leaders may not change the world, but they change WORLDS.
Tell us what you think of the shift – onto the balls of your feet and changing others’ worlds for the better.
Dan Mulhern is an expert on leadership and organizational development. He currently teaches courses in business and law at UC Berkeley. Mulhern is the author of two leadership books, Everyday Leadership: Getting Results in Business, Politics and Life and Be Real: Inspiring Stories For Leading At Home And Work and is the co-author of the bestselling political book, A Governor's Story: The Fight for Jobs and America's Economic Future. He is married to Gov. Jennifer Granholm, who served two terms as the governor of Michigan. They have three children.