The Knowledge Hoarder

In the end, inability to create connection and relationship will eventually bankrupt even the greatest treasury of knowledge and wisdom…

Most of us have heard at one time or another the time-worn adage…“In the end, you can’t take it with you.”  It is one of those…truer words have never been spoken sayings…and yet, most often what we do in this life runs in direct opposition to those exact words.

We live in a world of more.  More houses.  More cars.  More clothes.  More stuff.  And when we run out of room…then we search out more and bigger places to store it all.  It is an endless consumption spinning wheel that we seldom, if ever, step off of…

And if it isn’t “more” we are after…then “new” is the next game in town.

The point is not to say that the rapid and ongoing consumption of more or new is negative…rather, the problem lies in how much we have that sits wasting away.  Stuff that we will probably never use again…which could be cycled back out in a way to help those who are truly needful in our world.

The issue is that we have a hard time letting go of that which we have worked so hard to obtain…even if we are not going to use it.

An excessive example of how out of control this can get can be seen on a reality television show, Hoarders.  A show about people who not only collect more and more stuff…but, who find themselves unable to part with any of it.  Till eventually it takes over their life and their living space…causing immense pain and grief in their life.  Their inability to let go…not only destroys their living space, but their relationships with family and friends.  Many of whom find themselves lonely and apart from those they love due to their hoarding.

Dismally, the same thing often happens to the very brightest and intelligent of leaders…

Many leaders work long and hard to gain more knowledge…more learning.  Constantly storing up all that they have learned.  Hoping it will make them a better leader…advance them in their career.

The problem is that, for some, the more they gain the tighter they hold on to those nuggets of knowledge.  The learning they gain…they keep stored away in their head.  Unwilling to part with it.  It turns them into knowledge hoarders.  They become scared to give to others what they have worked so hard to gain…fearing that it will lessen their advantage, their position.

Unfortunately, the knowledge hoarding gets in the way of the necessary connections and relationships so vital to being and becoming an effective leader.  The very knowledge that they have hoarded to help them become stronger and better…has actually become the very obstacle to that end goal.

As leaders, the advantage isn’t in the gaining…it is in the giving.  In the end, we can’t take it with us…rings very true.  When we hoard…we fail to create connections and build the relationships necessary for life and leadership.  And without those connections and relationships…we eventually bankrupt even the greatest wealth of wisdom and knowledge.

Great leaders invest in the betterment of others…great leaders gain in what they give.

Leading Inside-Out And Wrong Side Up

We become rich in not what we have, but in what we give away…

The more you study the art and science of leadership…the more confounding, complex and confusing it can become.  Much of what truly great and authentic leaders do runs in direct conflict with our human nature.  Which therein lies the struggle…and why leadership will always be an ongoing journey of transformation.

The contrarian nature of servant leadership will most likely always remain a concept of continual struggle…

Whether those concepts are rooted around ideas of the release of power and autonomy, the giving and investment of your gifts and knowledge, or even the integration of empathy, compassion and emotional intelligence.

It remains a struggle…

  • For we preach collaboration, while making single-handed, unilateral decisions.
  • For we preach community and connection, while fragmenting the process through dysfunctional communication and inability to create trust.
  • For we preach teamwork, while undercutting the process through our focus on titles and positional power.

It is no secret…

Leaders have a track record of preaching one type of leadership…while implementing a style that is in direct conflict with those very same ideals and concepts.

The reason…

Selfless, servant leadership is incredibly difficult.  It requires leaders to turn themselves inside-out and very often…wrong-side up.  It is a perplexing proposition.  In stepping down from the center stage…from no longer placing yourself at the center of every solution, every event, every victory. every part of the organization…you reframe your core.

You become others focused…

As a leader, you learn the importance of raising others up…allowing them to take their place on center stage…to spotlight them, their work, their successes.  You learn how to add value to others, rather than focusing it back on yourself.

The inside-out is about engaging your heart and head…allowing your leadership to exude vulnerability, compassion, empathy, understanding, caring and love for those you serve and support.

The wrong-side up requires you to disrupt your long held notions about leadership.  You realize that is not really about titles, power and position…that it is not all about you.  Rather, it is about those you serve…and the connection and relationship you create with them.

It requires you to place a dimmer switch on your leadership…to allow the lights of those you serve the opportunity to shine bright.  It is about creating other leaders.

The interesting thing…

When you employ this type of selfless, servant leadership…your influence not only increases, it expands in exponential ways.  And keeps on expanding…

It takes a big heart to place others and their well-being over your own.  Not a trade-off that many leaders are often willing to make…or even consider.  But for those that do…they are often the ones that ignite a spark.

A spark that ignites your leadership…that changes people, that changes organizations, and sometimes…even changes the world.

We each have gifts…they were provided and given to us to not just have, but to share.  To not only enhance our own life…but to enhance and enrich the lives of others.  Our impact and influence is not in the knowledge and gifts we gain and control…but in how we share and give them away freely to others.

Leadership is not just about pushing through closed doors…it’s about holding those same doors open for those coming through behind you.

Leadership is not about doing what we have always done…it is about different.      And sometimes it is about being inside-out, and wrong side up.

There is a humble beauty that emanates from us when we choose to serve others selflessly…

The Small Moments

“You will find as you look back upon your life that the moments when you have really lived are the moments when you have done things in the spirit of love.”  -Henry Drummond

We live in a world inflated and brimming over with visions, goals, and objectives of every type.  They proliferate our professional and personal worlds.  We are constantly driven to do more, be more, achieve more…in every aspect of our life.

And there is no end in site…

Even before we can conquer the plethora of goals or objectives we find ourselves engaged in attaining…we are already scouring the horizon for the next big thing…the next target to set our sites on.  A new mission to drive us ever onward and forward.

Small wins, big wins…just make sure they are wins.

Now don’t get me wrong…I don’t have any problems with wins.  Very often, they are the one thing that drives us.  Small or big, victories often give us the strength and impetus to move forward…to overcome the difficulties we are faced with.

The problem is when all we ever look for is the wins…the small moments often get overlooked, passed over.  And while the wins are what we work for, what we try to achieve…the small moments are often what we remember.  They stick with us…often changing our lives, forever.

The reason we can’t overlook the small moments…

They usually happen when we need them most.  A word of praise.  A hug.  A smile.  An encouraging look.  It is in those moments that our hearts are touched…changed.  The small moments may be seen as the little things…but, it is best we remember that the littlest things often make the biggest difference.

“Fill your life with as many moments and experiences of joy and passion as you humanly can.  Start with one experience and build on it.”  -Marcia Wieder

Find The Power In Story

In a world that is becoming more connected and disconnected…simultaneously.  We must continue to understand the power of our story.

Many of today’s leaders are incredibly connected to their organization and the work they are trying to accomplish.  More days and longer hours have become the norm, more than the exception.  With the advent of technology, more and more are connected to their work and organization continuously.  And many of those same expectations roll down hill.

Leaders engage their people and teams with higher and higher expectations…of what is possible and what needs to be achieved.  Which ultimately requires…more days at work, more hours at work, more time spent together.

And yet, for all of this extended time…we still have little to no knowledge or understanding of those very people sitting across from us.  Their families, their goals, their troubles, their anxieties, their triumphs, their outside lives.  Their story…

We find ourselves disconnected from the people that we sit across the table from each day…

Disconnected from the very same people that we go to battle with each day to achieve our goals and vision of a better organization…of a better future.  And while this disconnect may be subtle…understanding it may very well serve as a difference maker for the ongoing success of a leader and an organization.

Our stories weave together to create the fabric of our organization…

And when a leader sews those stories together…they create a blanket of trust, understanding and unity that not only strengthens the organization, but invokes empathy, compassion and understanding.

Engaging around our stories may very well be the difference maker.  Especially in a time where more and more people are claiming to be disenchanted with their leaders and organizations.  In a time when people are craving “real” connection…

According to a recent Gallup Poll…upwards of 70% of Americans admit they are disengaged from their job, their work.

Our stories both differentiate and bring us together.  It is the work of the leader to sew these stories together.  Great leaders sew the patchwork of our stories into a grand blanket…one that envelops the organization in trust, compassion and closeness.  Which is vital…especially in a time when people find themselves disenchanted and disengaged with their leaders and organizations.

If we relate and create understanding through our stories…how can trust and unity ever flourish in our organizations if we never share and engage around those stories?

The Event Organizer

If you spend all of your time organizing the activities and events for the passengers on board…how will you determine if the ship is progressing to its destination?

Busy, busy, busy.  Do, do, do.  To and fro…on and on we go!

Today’s leaders are inundated with an ever-expanding list of duties and busy work…at a time when we find ourselves and our organizations yearning for strong and authentic leadership.  More and more leaders are finding it difficult to engage in the charting of the journey, in the steering of the ship…when they spend the majority of their time tossed to and fro on the waves of the urgent.

Many leaders spend so much of their time attending to the ship and the passengers that they never make it to the journey…they never actually set sail.

While the many leaders that do cast off and actually leave port, often find themselves adrift in other duties, with little or no time to chart course or steer the ship…heading them off towards destinations unknown.

And those that finally do make to the captain’s seat and can take hold of the steering wheel…often find themselves awash in so many course corrections that they end up either missing their destination or running their vessel aground.

As leaders, if we are not acutely aware of how we using our time…the urgent will eventually overwhelm the important.  We will become more of the ship’s event organizer than the captain.  We will end up losing our way, missing our destination, or possibly running the vessel aground.

We become very good at the ‘what’ without having any true understanding of our ‘why’.

We become the event organizer.

In times of turbulent change…patience is difficult.  We want to do, to plug holes, to give people what they want…instead of what they truly need.

Seekers Of Awe

“The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.”  -W.B. Yeats

Sometimes it feels as if we live in an age that has lost its ability to be astonished…to be caught up in the ‘wonder’ of it all.  Very seldom do we find ourselves amazed by the small and magnificent miracles that happen regularly around us.

Many of us go through each day on cruise control…

And it isn’t until we run over the unexpected pothole or speed bump that we find ourselves jolted back into reality.  Often shocked to find how deep on automatic we really were…and how detached we had allowed ourselves to become to our current surroundings…and the world around us.

In much the same way, we have to avoid putting ourselves on a mental autopilot…

We have to approach each day as seekers of ‘awe’…constantly searching out learning and ideas that floor us and our current ideas of what is possible.  And it doesn’t happen naturally.  We have search out those mental speed bumps…those mental potholes that jolt us out and off our mental autopilot.

Understand, this is not comfortable…rather, is it quite uncomfortable.  It is not a natural progression….it is often disjointed and invokes struggle…and fear.  Especially when those ideas disrupt our very foundations and shake us to the core.  However, those are the very ideas that we must determine to search out.  That is the ‘awe’ that we should seek in our learning and our leadership.

Both in the current and in the future, we must remain seekers of awe…as learners and leaders.

“He who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead; his eyes are closed.”  -Albert Einstein

Leading A Curiosity Exploration Movement

As leaders, we must constantly look to explore unknown waters…especially if we are going to ask those we lead to let go and swim away from the safety of the shore.

We have just begun to emerge from a long period of what I would term for leadership, as a time of refinement.  An age of improvement.  A period that placed leadership in a doing mode…as in, better, quicker, more efficient.  Organizational streamlining.  Our practices.  Our procedures.  Our policies.  Constant refinement.  Constant improvement.  Constant.

And while that time may not be completely coming to a close…we are slowly drifting into new and unchartered waters.  A new age…

While many still choose to remain on the shore…some are slowly testing the waters, while others have effectively launched right in and find themselves quickly sailing out to sea.  And where they are going has no maps, no charts, no directions…no lighthouse to guide their way.

Many are choosing to no longer allow the swimlines and buoys to keep them close to shore…they are choosing to let go of the safety that shore provides for the opportunity to explore unknown and unchartered waters.

For many leaders, we are moving back into an age of exploration…

It is a movement led not by gain, but by curiosity.  Curiosity and questions…questions that push us to places we have yet to explore, yet to discover.  Questions that push possibilities…

Is this the only way?  What have we not considered?  Can we create new ways of doing…and being?  What possibilities have we not explored?

Questions that not only engage us as leaders…but, those we lead.  Questions that move us from finding to seeking, from outcomes to possibilities.  Questions that not only push and stretch our thinking…but, pique our curiosity…from what is to what could be.

Questions that often scare us in the possibilities they provoke…

Creating a curiosity exploration movement will not be enacted in the answers we provide, but in the questions we ask.  It will be those questions that invoke our curiosity…that drive our want to explore new and unchartered waters.  Questions that push our people and organizations forward into this new age of exploring.

While the last age of exploration left its imprint in the vast changes provided to our understanding of our world and geography…our current age of exploration will have its impact upon our mind and our thinking.  And yet, like the last age of exploration…it will be driven by the same curiosity, the same question…

What is out there we are yet to discover?

Leaders should not just be explorers…they should be leading the curiosity exploration movement.  Catalysts of curiosity all across the organization…equipping their people and themselves to set sail to new places, new worlds…all in the name of discovery.

As leaders, it is well to remember that explorations and explorers don’t set sail with answers…they set sail with questions.  It is where we begin…it is where we plant the seeds of curiosity…the seeds of possibility.  In our questions…

As leaders, we will have the choice of letting go of the shore to test unchartered and unknown waters…or we can stay on the shore and accept what washes up.