The One with the Friends’ reference.

“To share your weakness is to make yourself vulnerable; to make yourself vulnerable is to show your strength.” – Criss Jami

Last we talked, I shared with you the struggles I had been facing in attempts to write my post for the week and the impressive delay in its release. I know this caused great stress for many of you as you sat at your computers all Tuesday and Wednesday, starring at your screens while continually refreshing the page with an undeniable anticipation that one of those refreshes would result in the new post. And for that I extend my sincerest apologies.

But I would be lying in saying this week I haven’t faced the same struggles. Luckily, my revolutionary “aha” moment happened sooner than last, so, on account of all you die-hard fans, I think a bless up is in order.

So, what was the catch this time? Last week it had been the challenge of sharing a personal story that few people in my life prior to my post had even known and sharing it in a way that wouldn’t evoke a desperate plea for attention or special treatment. The irony in this week’s struggle lies in the fact that I now feel an attention to deliver a post that is just as evoking. And if we’re not going to lie again, I really don’t want to.

The more I have progressed with this blog, the more I have realized that I haven’t the slightest idea how it is supposed to progress. I’m not someone who always loves discussing deep, inspiring emotions and I’m not someone who always loves reading others discussing deep, inspiring emotions and, because of that, I simply can’t host a blog that reflects such a theme. Hence, my break-through for my previous post is now my struggle for this one. I feel I have set myself up for expectations and I have established specific parameters upon which I must deliver. At the same time, however, those parameters simply are not me.

As I deleted two prior drafts to this, I realized why I found myself facing a struggle yet again: vulnerability. It’s a force that affects many people on varying levels. Watch any season of the Bachelor and you’ll find that 95% of the women struggle with the process because they don’t like being vulnerable. It has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that their man has his dates with 20 other woman or that he’s some terribly dull racecar driver who has as much personality as a pepperoni stick.

For me, the vulnerability in hosting a blog is admitting that my posts don’t always come to me as naturally as I want to give off that they do. It can be freaking hard, dude. I’m just a 23-year-old who’s studying leadership and has a passion for making an impact onto others, but, I am FAR from being an expert in either field nor am I in a position to host a blog discoursing my slew of experiences that have taught me these profound lessons along the way. Setting a pressure for myself to evoke all the emotions post after post is just unrealistic.

As I replayed these thoughts through my mind and dragged my previous drafts to the little trash icon, I remembered back to my introductory post in which I concluded it in saying, “Welcome to the journey.” I remembered that the beauty in journeys is they aren’t always a picture-perfect plan. So, if my blog is also a journey, why am I pressuring it to be perfect?

My catch in this week’s post had been centered around my desire to depict that I have my sh*t together. I wanted to be that blogger who writes revolutionary post after revolutionary post while also utilizing charming wit and that good tomfoolery. Anyone who has spent more than a half hour with me, though, knows that my sh*t is as together as Ross and Rachel’s relationship (for you Friends’ heathens, that is a prime comparison, by the way). And I’m not about to pretend otherwise.

Pull yourself together

So, how am I possibly going to bring this back around to leadership? Well, I promise no matter how far off the beaten path I stray, I always find my way due north. And here’s our due north today: leadership isn’t about having your sh*t together either.

Over my years studying leadership, I have read multiple texts that preach how impactful leaders are and how leadership can make or break an organization and that leaders are these shining beacons of hope. Well, sucks to suck, but it isn’t always as simple as it seems. The real leadership texts discuss the good, the bad and the dirty of this profession. There are struggles that come with leadership. Much like the struggles I have been facing with this blog, there’s a pressure to leading perfectly and leading as if this perfection is achieved out of natural instinct.

In The Leadership Challenge: How to Make Extraordinary Things Happen in Organizations, authors, James Kouzes and Barry Posner, review the five practices that have been researched and agreed upon as practices that should be performed to achieve extraordinary results as leaders compared to those who don’t put these practices into action. Simply defined, these practices are modeling the way, inspiring a shared vision, challenging the process, enabling others to act and encouraging the heart (don’t you fret, we’ll be diving into the nooks and crannies of these practices in future posts).

Throughout their text, Kouzes and Posner outline the benefits of such practices and how each practice looks when applied intentionally. These chapters are comprehensive road maps to understanding leadership on a deeper level. They provide eloquent descriptions and examples of leadership complemented by real-life stories of successful leaders. As a reader, it all sounds ideal, right? You feel compelled to follow in their steps, to inspire people as they have inspired.

But, like any dream, you’re abruptly awoken in the final chapter with the beautiful dose of reality.

Now, don’t get me wrong, these were all tremendous stories that Kouzes and Posner shared and these are the stories that truly evoke my passion to be a leader who will inspire others just in the same. Leadership efforts as these shouldn’t go unnoticed because they do have an impact unlike any other. I wouldn’t be writing this blog if I hadn’t had a leader in my life impact me in similar ways. However, the reality is leadership can still be a challenge and any leadership practice can become destructive.

Leadership, as defined by Kouzes and Posner, is “an observable pattern of practices and behaviors and a definable set of skills and abilities.” Like any skill, it can be strengthened, honed and enhanced; yet, it can also be tested, difficult to execute and lost in the strive for perfection. The final chapter of The Leadership Challenge shines light on these issues. Kouzes and Posner reveal that leaders can become obsessed with their own values and discount others’ views. Leaders can exploit their powers of inspiration to cause those who trust them to surrender their will. Leaders can give in to the lure of hubris and narcissism. These are the repercussions of striving for perfection and disengaging from the true intentionality of leading.

These are the bad and dirty.

As a society, we don’t like talking about the bad and dirty. We like to avoid thinking struggle can be so easy to experience and that good intentions can be misguided by perfectionism. The dirty is often swept under the rug to better facilitate a belief that perfection is possible.

Sweep under the rug.gif

Because, let’s be real, perfection is ideal. I will be the first to admit that perfectionism has controlled much of my life, including this blog. It is a state of desired flawlessness for our actions. It causes us to disregard what we have achieved and how the practices toward which we have devoted our greatest effort will never be good enough. The harm in perfection is its ability for it to drive our expectations out of proportion and redefine our reality to be a state of which we will never approve.

But what if we flipped the switch? Rather than redefining our reality, maybe we should be redefining perfection.

Maybe the perfection for which we should strive is the ability to be fully present. Only when we are fully present and intentional with our actions are we able to reach a state of which we do approve. In this state, mistakes can be made and will be made. In this state, we can embrace the bad and the dirty and we can embrace vulnerability. There’s humility in those struggles and that humility is empowering. When we understand that our sh*t doesn’t have to be together to achieve something, we can become more intentional with what we can achieve.

While I can’t achieve a perfect blog, I can achieve my goal of a weekly post. It may be a post that evokes all the emotions and it may be a post that gets to the bad and the dirty, who knows. Regardless, I can assure you I have yet to write a post without being fully present. This blog is leading me as much as I am leading through it and every ounce of effort I have devoted has been because I still believe in the good of leadership and the strengths of vulnerability. I can guarantee I will continue to struggle; however, I am doing what I can to use my struggle intentionally. Because this is the beautiful dose of reality.

So, this is the blonde embracing vulnerability. And all the good, the bad and the dirty in-between.

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