How to Lead With Rhythm

Tis the season to . . .

Collect from slow-paying clients. Cram for exams. Grade those exams! Shop. Wish you didn’t have to shop. Decorate. Pray for snow. Pray for sun (December 21 can’t get here fast enough!) Prepare for family – Yay! Boo! Yay!

We never lead outside context. There is rhythm to life, and a leader — whether by title or just by focus and intention, passion and love — can’t be the lead singer if he or she is out of step with the rest of the band. There’s a beat, and you deny it at your own peril.  The beat is fast — with the hectic-ness that now begins to increase; and then it turns slow, because we are all tired and want to hibernate – or to be those Coca Cola bears who seem not to have a care in the world.*

What do you do with this strange beat?  Four things:

  1. Acknowledge the tiredness, hectic pace, and hopefulness of the season. Nobody respects a boss, coach, teacher who is totally out of touch? So, find the human touch! Let people know that you see them.
  2. Focus on the essential.  At this time, more than perhaps any other, it’s key to focus in on what really matters. This year will end.  And some stuff won’t get done. So help people focus on what matters most.
  3. Pay attention to stoking your own energy.  As my great friend M.A. Hastings used to say, “Muller, you don’t light a fire with a wet match.” Check in with yourself and ask: What will help me finish strong?
  4. Expect them to find their energy.  My friend Ron Heifetz loves to say that leaders “walk the razor’s edge,” and that is true in many ways. I say it here, in the sense that on the one hand you respect that people are generally a bit tired, wanting to slack off.  Yet on the other, it’s important to hold people to their word, to try their darnedest to meet their goals, to care for customers and co-workers. A little challenge can go a long way to having people feel like they finished the race strong, and that they truly and fully deserve the break that is coming.

Pay attention to the beat, and see if you can’t move it a little, as you

Lead with your best self.

*Apologies to real polar bear lovers who know those big beautiful beings aren’t so carefree these days.