“You are nominated!”, says a letter from the Union of Inspiring Wigbigwannabees (UIW). Surprisingly, you have been nominated for this year’s supercalifragilistic award for global expialidociousness (s.a.g.e.), a prestigious worldwide prize in recognition of outstanding leadership achievements. In the spirit of sustainability, the winner receives nothing but a ripe apple, so there are many stories about what past winners did with their award apples: some made apple sauce, some dried their apples, and one recent winner let it rot over months, posting daily pictures of its ongoing decay on social media.
You pick up a green apple from your desk, take a bite, and look out of the window, chewing. Accepting the nomination would mean accepting confirmation of your leadership choices over the past years – some of which were healthy and helpful, for sure, and some of which were mistaken or got messed up, as it happens.
You reach for Italo Calvino’s “Invisible Cities” which happens to wait for you on the window sill. You read: “This is what I mean when I say I would like to swim against the stream of time: I would like to erase the consequences of certain events and restore an initial condition. But every moment of my life brings with it an accumulation of new facts, and each of these new facts bring with it consequences; so the more I seek to return to the zero moment from which I set out, the further I move away from it”. You sigh.
Leaders – much more than most of us – constantly walk a fine line between remaining true to who they are and changing over time as times require. On the one hand, leaders are expected to be consistent and coherent – and rightly so. Nobody can work with a leader whose wishes today don’t match what they wished for yesterday. On the other hand, changing circumstances require changing responses, and skillful leaders know when and how to let go of habits, plans, or perspectives which have become outdated. Nobody can work with a leader who desperately clings to yesterday’s features which no longer makes sense for today and tomorrow.
Knowing when to continue to stay the same and when to reinvent yourself as somebody different, is one of the highest skills any leader can aspire to acquire. The ability to willfully decide whether to remain or whether to be reborn is the closest to tasting eternal youth a leaders can strive for.
You open the book at a different place: “Arriving at each new city, the traveler finds again a past of his that he did not know he had: the foreignness of what you no longer are or no longer possess lies in wait for you in foreign, unpossessed places”. You sigh again. You crumple the nomination letter for s.a.g.e. You open your leader’s blog and type: “Leading is going toward something that is about to be, and no one yet knows what it will be”.
* This is the eleventh of a series of blog posts exploring some uniquely motivating mindfully elaborated ramblings (s.u.m.m.e.r.) of mine, written during my summer vacation in 2019, investigating topics and trends relevant for leaders in today’s multilayered world. All persons, situations, and dialogues quoted are purely fictional, albeit informed by what I see happening in companies I work with. If you want to know what I do when I work, read more here and here [retrieved July 9, 2019].