I love this photo of the Lion. It is such a powerful visual of traits I admire in leaders: Strong, Confident, Peaceful, Wise, and Courageous. He is fully aware of who he is and what he stands for. Calm and relaxed, yet alert and watchful. Able to fully enjoy life as he currently knows it, and yet courageous enough to leave his comfort zone, and use his voice or his strength to empower, to protect or to create change the moment he is needed.
C.S. Lewis describes leadership this way:
- How many people and organizations do you know that need that kind of leader?
- How many individuals and organizations do you know that are unhappy with their present reality and desire something different and yet do nothing to change their circumstances?
- So why is there such a big gap between the desired result and the present state?
In his book The Dream Giver, Bruce Wilkinson emphasizes how each of us has a dream, and far too often our comfort zones keep us from pursuing those dreams.
- Have you ever watched a favorite movie and fast forwarded the parts that trigger emotions you don’t want to experience?
- Have you ever avoided speaking the truth for fear of conflict or retaliation?
- Have you ever been in a situation as a leader where you smelled smoke and didn’t investigate?
- I have.
On the opposite side of the spectrum is the amazing growth we can all experience when we are pushed outside our comfort zones by any life altering event. And instead of shutting down, we face the fear and intentionally focus on learning all we can in spite of the circumstances. When our lives handed us one of those times, this quote was a frequent source of vision and encouragement for me,
“The single best way to develop leaders is to take people out of their safe environments, and away from the people they know, and throw them into a new arena they know little about. Way over their head, preferably. In fact the more demanding their challenges, the more pressure and risk they face, the more likely a dynamic leader will emerge.” Bruce Wilkinson
In the past few weeks I have come across two people that that have inspired me because they are currently pushing through their comfort zones, to pursue their dreams and to make a greater impact:
Yesterday on a flight I met a woman who is a Grandmother that has spent most of her life running her household, being a Mom and volunteering. Her dream is to go on Mission Trips and to be able to meet physical needs in addition to spiritual needs. Last year she enrolled in a class to become an EMT. In our short visit I came away with a much bigger appreciation for anyone who has ever had the courage to be the oldest person in the class, to learn subjects that don’t come naturally and to stay focused on their dreams especially when those closest to them can’t yet see what they see. In spite of everything, she has achieved her EMT Certification and is now pursuing additional training. She is still operating outside her comfort zone, however, she is clearly growing and making things that seemed impossible a year ago, a reality.
The Tulsa World recently featured a story about Charlie Blevins, a Middle Manager that spent 23 years working in a local plant and dreaming that one day he would own it. Late last fall he was given notice that the plant would be closing and in December he and more than 70 others were laid off. Instead of being defeated about the job loss, Charlie starting doing his homework. After seeking the advice and support of others, contacting his previous employer and investing his retirement savings it was recently announced that Charlie was able to purchase the plant. Charlie’s courage and commitment to his dream means that many people who were unemployed will have an opportunity to work again. And my bet is that Charlie’s experiences have made him wiser, kinder and even more credible as a leader.
- What are you doing to step outside your comfort zone to learn something new?
- What are you doing to face the hard truth about the opportunities in your organization and change them?
- How are you seeking the truth about yourself and your own leadership opportunities and improving?
This post was originally featured on the Giana Consulting Website in 2011. Photo Credits: Fotolia