Each day the gnawing sensation in my gut grew stronger. On the third day, it turned into an internal voice yelling at me to pay attention. I could feel the voice scolding me, shaking its pointer finger in my face, saying, “Pay attention! Wake up and take action.”
I knew the message from the voice was legitimate (although, perhaps the tone was a bit harsh), but I did need to face that which I would have oh-so-preferred to stave off or nullify. The problem was I didn’t know what action to take. I didn’t know what the best course of action was, could not see the steps needed to resolve the issue, or which conversation to have to finally overcome the challenge. Moreover, it wasn’t just one issue but a complex matrix.
As one of my mentors would say, “Welcome to leadership.”
Leadership is often glorified in today’s culture. Yet, I find that it often entails being handed the challenges that were not previously resolved, making decisions in which the outcomes are not always clear and holding space for contradiction and paradox.
As leaders, what do we do when we don’t know what to do? Take a moment to check in:
- What’s your default mode?
- Do you avoid, shrink away, crawl into bed and turn off the lights?
- Do you get angry and blame those around you?
- Do you get paralyzed and take no action?
- Do you go into silence?
- Do we simply intensify what we are already doing?
- How much time and energy do you spend in this reactionary stage?
Leadership has many facets, from engendering a shared vision to move towards, to listening deeply, to weaving together multiple perspectives, to eliciting others’ inherent greatness. All these components are key to leadership. However, one aspect is often neglected and yet it is just as critical as the fore mentioned.
Leadership requires us to face and navigate through the unknown. How we chart our way through the darkness, through the valleys, through uncertainty, is a central pillar of leadership. The future is unknown. What does it take to face this mystery as a leader? How does one move from avoidance to facing what needs to be addressed? How do we befriend the mystery?
While I cannot claim to have mastered facing the unknown yet, I can say that life has provided me enough opportunities to practice. I have found the following principles to help guide and assist me:
1. Presence – What practices have you cultivated to ensure you are fully present? Being present requires us to tap into our inner resources, our strength, and our heart. Mindful breathing is often a good starting point.
2. Acceptance – The situation is what it is. Putting energy toward resisting the facts doesn’t change the facts. Acceptance isn’t the same as an endorsement or condoning. We can accept something and still not approve or like it. Acceptance allows us to face it, to be in a relationship to it in a way that can lead to change. Given the situation is what it is, what can I do? How can I respond to the given circumstances?
3. Help – Create a network of support through relationships built on trust in which you can speak freely and share your hesitations, doubts, and fears. We can experience much relief in sharing our deepest concerns, and often, new openings emerge from simply having a place to dialogue. And the flip side to this is listening to others assist us in gaining perspective on a situation that also leads to new possibilities.
4. Reflection – What are you learning? What’s the possibility for learning? What growth is possible for you in this situation? Get clarity around what matters most in this situation and what you are committed to.
I find that considering these aspects acts as a compass for the journey into the unknown…
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About the Author:
Veronica Olalla Love, M. Ac., NCC, PCC is the Global CEO for the Newfield Network. She is also an international facilitator for the Newfield Network Programs and is the lineage holder for the Newfield Network’s ontological coaching tradition. In her unique and passionate style, Love invites us to remember the depth of potential we have as evolutionary beings.