Since 2008 I have served as President and Founding Partner for the Center for Empowered Leadership. The work of the center is to help leaders focus their attention on what it takes to be an empowered leader. You can access the center through the web site. It is a free service in our attempt to make the world a slightly better place. My founding partner, Steve Sokolow, and I speak and write on this topic. Our latest major effort has led to the publication of our most recent collaboration, The Wise Leader: Doing the Right Things for the Right Reasons. What I would like to do over the next few months is to give you a sense of what the book is about because I believe that the work of DSC and our center are very much aligned, and that those who lead children—whether as parents, teachers, or administrators—must focus in the need to empower and on the obligation to act in wise ways.
This month I would like to share three lessons for wise leaders. The first is that wise leaders operate with respect—for everyone and everything. The wise leader must start by respecting herself and by taking good care of her mind, her body, and her heart. Wise leaders show respect for all living things. Nothing is too small or too seemingly insignificant to be respected and revered. If you take care of the small things, the big things often take care of themselves.
The fuel for creating respect for all things comes from the inexhaustible source of love. Wise leaders remember that love is a verb—something to be acted upon. The source of love comes from a sense of caring and empathy for others. Wise leaders understand that love is the most powerful force in the universe and can lead to happiness and success on all levels.
The second lesson for wise leaders is to keep a focus on the positive. Next to love, the most powerful emotion for creating success in the self and others is a sense of hope and optimism. Small and great things emanate from possibility-thinking. Wise leaders find ways to turn stumbling blocks into stepping stones. They turn adversity into advantage. They understand that every raincloud offers life and possibility.
A wise leader understands the power of syntropy—that at work in the universe is a force that creates progress and growth, order and complexity. This leads to a sense of richer possibility. This is a force that anyone can access through positive thought and action.
Wise leaders also understand that the light attracts the dark. Everyone has within them a possibility for light or darkness. It must be understood by the wise leader that, simply by offering light, he will attract the force of darkness. In other words, toxic forces and toxic people will try to rain on your parade. Knowing that the darkness is there allows you to stay strong and keep a sense of hope and possibility that will ward off and dilute the toxicity.
Wise leaders operate with an attitude of gratitude. They are grateful for the good in their life but they also understand and appreciate the bad. All of life is a dance of positive and negative, and by accepting and being grateful for both, the wise leader can overcome the moments of darkness. Wise leaders learn to appreciate the good and bad and learn to communicate that gratitude to others.
The third lesson for a wise leader is to stay authentic. You must walk your talk. Integrity comes from being integrated and integrating what you profess with how you progress, and from knowing that your words and actions must be in accord.
When leaders are authentic and aligned, they can become courageous in their actions because they are operating from a sense of strength and are standing on high ground. They know, instinctively, when and how to fight for what is right and can speak truth to power.
Wise leaders trust themselves and others. They know that trust is the coin of the realm for success and that by trusting themselves and learning to trust others great things become possible. Wise leaders also understand the power of compassion. They can put themselves into the shoes of others. Having compassion allows you to trust because it allows you to forgive mistakes that you or others might make. It allows the leader to empathize with others hopes, dreams, and fears. When that happens it allows the leader to enlist others in a greater cause. People who receive compassion learn to give it to others and that gift just keeps multiplying.
A leaders search for authenticity is littered with mistakes and problems—both his and others. Yet real progress only comes through making mistakes. Wise leaders learn to forgive themselves and others for not always matching up to the high expectations and for not always getting it right. That sense of forgiveness spurs further effort. The fear of failure inhibits thinking and action. Forgiveness promotes thought and action. Forgiveness offers a sense of grace to others and to oneself. A family, classroom, school, or any organization that has a sense of grace can truly be amazing.
Next month we will continue to explore the lessons for wise leadership. (The Wise Leader is available from iUniverse, Barrett-Kohler, Amazon and Barnes and Noble and is available for Kindle and Nook.