This week I spoke to a group of volunteer co-ordinators about Authentic Leadership. For an hour I engaged the group in a high energy discussion of leadership; authentic, values driven, strengths based leadership, people focused type over management style; the authoritative work-focused risk-adverse kind. It was great.
The moment that the participants said they got the most out of the hour was a story I shared about one of my personal leadership ah ha moments.
I was leading a tour group into the Land of the Midnight Sun via Norway’s stunning Coastline and Fjords several years ago. We had just taken the train from Oslo to picturesque Flam, caught the ferry to Bergen and arrived into one of the most photographed harbours in the world. I disembarked the ferry with my group of 50 trailing behind me tugging on their hand luggage. Blindly I was striding ahead intent, and desperately I might add, scanning the waterfront for our hotel. I hadn’t been in Bergen since I was back packing across Europe with my younger brother in tow..but then that’s another story. Basically I had no idea where the hotel was located or how to get there and I had all these people expecting me to lead them directly to the front door.
I gallantly strode forward every step bringing on new waves of anxiety. Up ahead I noticed three people standing chatting. I rushed into their midst and with words bursting from my mouth. “I need to find Hotel ____ I got all these people pulling their luggage, tell me where it is”
A gentleman facing me looked at me hard and said STOP! I jerked to a stop stunned. His mouth moved again and said BREATHE. I did .. In fact several breaths. In seconds the anxiety melted away and I became grounded in my body again. He lifted his arm and pointed across the street and said it’s right there. Calmly I thanked him, turned and walked across the street out of his life and into the hotel.
Only I didn’t ever forget this wonderful man. It was an Oprah ah ha moment for me!
Leadership has many forms. His gift of leadership to me was not getting knocked over with my huge anxious energy, getting my attention with a direct clean and clear request something I could act on and shift my inner emotional atmosphere thus changing everything.
Sometimes that is all we need in our leadership is moments of clarity.
This week when I told this story the hairs stood up on my arms. I knew my storytelling had an impact on the audience as much as it still does on me each time I think of it.
- Be aware of your emotional atmosphere when you feel anxious – how can you shift that?
- You are responsible for your impact when you enter a room (or apparently a group of people chatting on the harbour front in Bergen)
- Are you really living your Authentic Life?