Are you in Orbit? (Leadership)

    When Nicolaus Copernicus posited that the earth orbits the sun rather than the other way around, many people thought he was crazy. For centuries, astronomers were convinced that the earth was at the center. It sounds elementary to us today, but do we adopt a similarly limiting view in our leadership? Let's take a look.

    While consulting, I've noticed a couple of different types of leaders, which I will grossly generalize for this example. The first example is a business owner we will refer to as Bill. Bill loves being at the center of all things. He's a bigger-than-life charismatic figure and deeply insecure, keeping business plans in his mind and his employees on a short leash. Instead of casting a compelling vision and purpose for the company, hiring the most capable people, and trusting them with their expertise, Bill hires candidates who do not intimidate him. The people he hires will not challenge him; if they do, they will only be employed briefly. Employees that remain with Bill are content simply following daily oversight and direction. The company survives, but Bill is always stressed, there are constant problems, and employee turnover is horrendous, which Bill attributes to the "low quality of workers these days." While the issues are stressful, Bill enjoys problems because his employees constantly approach him for direction and solutions. Bill has created a world that orbits around him and feeds longings rooted in brokenness.

    The second example is Jill. She sees her company as having great value and purpose beyond herself. Jill constantly reminds employees of the company's vision and purpose and the importance of their efforts. Jill encourages her team to find and implement new solutions to move the company forward. She is fearless in empowering people to lead new initiatives. Recognizing her weaknesses, Jill hires people who can round out the team and strengthen the company. She values her employees and trusts managers to carry out established procedures and collect and consider suggestions for improvement from all levels of the organization. While Jill is in many ways the charismatic face of the organization, she knows it neither depends entirely on her nor orbits around her. The vision and purpose of the organization and Jill's encouragement of the people within allow them to be energized and see themselves as part of something valuable and enduring. They are unified in orbit around a clear purpose and vision, and Jill loves celebrating their wins. 

    While it may seem preposterous, sometimes we try to keep people and entire organizations in orbit around us. A part of us longs to feel valuable, significant, or in control, but how we try to fill those longings may pull us off track. Part of us wants a little bit of the universe to orbit around us and our desires. But, if we are not careful, we can find that those tendencies hold us, the people around us, and even the organizations we lead back from accomplishing the great purposes for which they were created. Of course, none of us wants to be a Bill-type leader, but we all have habits, tendencies, and unmet needs to lead us in that direction. In all honesty and humility, let's ask ourselves, "What do I believe orbits around me? Where do I need to recenter, trusting the purpose and vision around which my life should truly orbit?"

Active Growth Exercise:

I recognize a need for growth in the area of ___________. (Consider both an immediate change and a place of incremental change.) I will take action to move in a healthier direction by practicing __________. 


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