Connected Leadership — A Series — How judgment eliminates opportunity.

Diversity is essential to life, literally fueling nature — integrated differences creating conditions that create life. Sameness is not a natural product of creation. Regardless of the appearance of similarity, everything is distinctly unique, driven through evolution. The continued evolution of identifying business requires a leader to foster diversity. Diversity of perspective empowers critical thinking and fuels creative problem-solving. Through the energy and act of presence, listening, and allowing, a connected leader holds the space where creation can occur. So realize, my PowerPoint isn’t about meeting your expectations of sameness and story, it’s about you understanding my unique, diverse perspective. Join me from where I am speaking and gain insight into the story, the perspective, the information I am sharing. This is Connected Leadership.

  • Listening from a space of nothingness so anything becomes possible.

The other day, I was in a meeting with a colleague presenting to executives. He was the primary presenter, and I provided color commentary. Everyone attended via teleconference. Eight faces appeared on the screen, some looking at the camera, some typing away on the keyboard, seemingly oblivious to our presentation. Partway through the session, I felt the energy of the meeting shift. The ‘less interested virus’ held by one or two executives defied social distancing, infecting other executives participating in the meeting. Our executive sponsor began to text us directly, noticing too that we were losing the audience.

We were asked to present on a topic we knew well. Over the previous ten days, we invested a significant amount of time, thought, even anxiety into creating a worthy experience for this executive team. Executives do know their presenters spend an inordinate amount of time preparing, right? It comes with the title. However, regardless of our time investment, it was clear; we did not have theirs, at least not all of them. Post-meeting feedback corroborated this observation.

“You went too deep.” was one comment.

“Not enough meat on the bone.” was another.

I laughed silently, curious how too much could coexist with not enough. In the end, we didn’t provide what the audience expected or wanted. Life rarely does.

A question entered my mind. If this was a presentation from the CEO, would their interest be peaked somehow? Would their feedback be different? Would they stay engaged and present throughout the entire topic eager to understand what’s next, or would their attention wander off to those unread emails and unfinished tasks while they share their screen with their CEO?

Every person in the organization is as important as the CEO. A connected leader understands the value of every moment and of every person occupying that moment. No single role or person is more important than the one we are experiencing now. It is within these seemingly bland moments where the unique and profound hide. The connected leader’s role is to discover these treasures, the essence of what life is offering. In each moment of now, leaders are being invited to evolve to embody these traits and seek out the underlying magnificence each person offers.

For me, much of what I know now, I didn’t realize I didn’t know then.

Wait….what?

Life’s most critical lessons, my most essential learnings, occurred spontaneously, in the moment, providing insights I didn’t even know I didn’t know. I learned things I didn’t know I wanted, needed, or existed. Presence, direct engagement, and active listening delivered the ability to discover the subtle attributes life offered. I’ve evolved to be a discoverer of the essence of things. I understood life presented life the way it was for a reason; for my growth, diversity, and evolution. This observation evolved from a concept into a somatic experience of humility and gratitude. My understanding of life transformed after this somatic realization.

All of this occurred because I was seeking to evolve and willing to be humble. I examined, actually dissected, judgment seeking to root out its source. I wanted to know what caused judgment of what life was presenting to me? I wanted to know because judgment’s presence kept me from discovering the magnificence of the moment as it was. I found that judgment existed in the space of patriarchy. Higher and lower are required. Better or worse. I asked myself, “Do I know better than life what I need in this moment?” Humbly, I said no because I could see the distortion of this perspective, blinding me to the experience and intelligence life offered. Judgment was consuming the space needed for inquiry. Judgment blinded me to how life appeared. Diversity was lost to a singular perspective. My true connection to the two-way experience of life was gone.

Rather than struggle with what life offered me, I just needed to ask what is here for me in this moment? Seeking to understand pushed judgment out of the way, offering space to examine life’s occurrences more deeply. My quest for what the moment offered became as crucial as my opinion. Patriarchy disappeared. I began to learn, see, and understand things I never knew I needed to know. What life offered was equally important, if not more important than what I wanted life to offer. I discovered life isn’t happening to me; it’s happening for me. There is something for me to learn in every single moment, and I could find its essence by diving into the moment with whatever or whomever life provided.

I am describing my experience of connected leadership. I go where life takes me. I travel into the individual’s experience talking or presenting to me, allowing them to whisk me away into their perspective and help me lookout and see that which they found important. From here, I can begin to experience the effort, the care, the thought, the anxiety that went into what they presented or spoke to me about. This is how people listen to their CEO. This is how we need to listen to each other, our children, our significant others, our employees, and friends. Presence is our greatest gift and essential skill of the connected leader, enabling a somatic relationship into the experience of uniqueness and diversity.

The executives had expectations on our Powerpoint deck and the content of our presentation. We did not provide what they wanted, and they were not interested in what life (we) offered them. I wonder what they missed? I know what I didn’t miss — the experience for this story. I also didn’t miss my unconscious bias, an expectation that my leadership should be present and connected as a way of being because they were in leadership positions.

My way of being may achieve my position, but my position does not necessitate my way of being.

Connected leadership isn’t positional; it’s integral. Connected leadership isn’t something you achieve or something you do; it’s something you discover. Good luck on your journey.

Connected Leadership — A Series

This article is part of a series called Connected Leadership. It revolves around the observations a father shared in a memoir to his children. The specific observations covered in this article are:

  • The greatest gift you can offer is presence — It is your presence that offers the greatest gift to those blessed to encounter and experience it. It is equally important to understand that their presence in your life is also a blessing. Our entire lives have to lead us to hear and now. Who and what we are experiencing in each moment is creation itself, and presence unwraps this gift for us to see. By not being present, the leaders above missed the blessing and the opportunity at the moment.

A witness to life; it’s patterns, tendencies and flow. A discoverer of the essence of things. A creator of flow from observation.

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