“Lead with your best self” is the way I close my RFL columns, and I thought in the next few weeks I’d share some of the seeds at the core of that expression. Fundamental to this exhortation is the notion that you can present to yourself and to others all kinds of versions of you – some awesome and some way less than your best. And, in each moment, and in a thousand accumulating moments over time, you have a choice of the self with which you’ll lead.
If there is one great enemy to your best, it is fear. I know a young guy who’s awesome with other people. He can meet other young people or adults and has an uncanny way of making them feel cared about and connected. Yet he gets very nervous at the notion of stretching beyond his usual boundaries. He can hardly stand the conversation about joining a new league, activity, or camp. His flight instincts get activated, quite literally, sending him not only out of the conversation, but right out of the room. Once I drew for him a picture that I’d seen Mary Ann (M.A.) Hastings, my sage business partner, draw for a client: I drew one stick figure about an inch high; and to its right I drew another about 4 inches high. Quoting M.A., I said, while pointing to the small figure, “This one is how you see yourself sometimes; and this one,” pointing to the giant figure next to it, I said, “is how others see you. You are so much more than you imagine yourself to be.”
When that guy learns to manage his natural fears and thereby lead with his best self, oh what a force he will be. I’m convinced that it is fear – natural, biological, genetic, and developmental – that puts him, and us inside that small and, we imagine, safe little stick figure on the left. Perhaps you ask: fear of what? All kinds of things: embarrassment, failure, attack, being wrong, being isolated, being different, getting fired! Note that each is a variant of our most deep and ancient fears: isolation, pain, death.
To lead with your best means to choose to step outside the seeming safety and to engage. Your big stick-figure self will learn so much more by engaging than by laying back and playing small. So, find your best self – the values or observations or work product or love – that are the best you have and see if there isn’t a way fearlessly to share them in this short week ahead. Seems like a great game to play and one that will help in the long run for you to
Lead with your best self,