If we are a product of our environment, I well recognize that my early life of confusion and certainly my ill-fitting, adopted leadership style stemmed from my early influences. And as I looked back in time to specific moments as a kid, before my father had a real influence on me, I remember being more carefree, unaffected and truly inflow with who I really was. I specifically remember those times as a kid where play was dominant and joyous. There is the recollection of being on the playground or in the school yard and organizing kids to do fun things no matter if it was a spontaneous pick-up game or organized events. I just loved playing and making things happen. And as I see it, prior to my dad injecting his style into my world, I had unconsciously been asserting my own natural leadership approach during times of play and doing so without the toxic use of force or manipulation.
As I watch children play on the playground now, it’s obvious to see who the leaders and followers are, the strategies that work and the strategies that don’t work. To see kids joyously, without stress or expectation engaging in activities, with others, that makes them totally happy and fully engaged is just plain enlightening. Yet, sometime between that kid period and age 6-8 we lose it when the conditioning, expectations, repression, judgment and critical input from adults cause us to go down a path that is inauthentic and out of alignment with our true, natural selves.
The byline of “Leadership Is A Playground Play Fearlessly” is a retrospective as to what leadership was to me at that early age and could have and should have been throughout life. But instead of playing fearlessly, in order to avoid the criticality and judgment, I played fearfully. I thought I had to play fearfully both as a participant and as a leader because the value of being authentic was overridden by the learned fear of harsh response. Even though 95% of what stops us is extrinsic and not real and only 5% has any validity, that knowledge is not always enough to change behaviors or override the need for safety.
Thankfully, times have changed and in light of human experience and research so has the methodology for how to engage other human beings in useful, purposeful and collaborative work. Still, it’s a glacial pace even though we are more aware of the dangers of being conditioned into a way of thinking that represses or denies another person’s true and authentic style. Conditioning is a less than effective approach if we expect to get the highest and best from one person or tens of millions of people. It goes against the laws of physics as well as the documented rules of the subconscious mind. It is unfortunate that the situation of being conditioned away from our true self is modeled time and time again without any conscious awareness. And yet one of the greatest tools for facilitating a shift to higher levels of engagement and development is close at hand and centers around the simplest of all human interactions….asking great and insightful questions. To really, with care, compassion and interest, ask about the wants, needs, and motivations of another person and how to help them get to their outcome all while being in alignment with the stated organizational goals is the basic power tenants of influence and leadership in today’s world.