Friedman’s gem titled A Failure of Nerve is one of my favorite leadership books. Slow down and read this rant non-anxiously. If you’re a skimmer you might as well just skip this one. Enjoy and learn from a dead Rabbi who was decades before his time…
“A leader must separate his or her own emotional being from that of his or her followers while still remaining connected. A leader needs the capacity not only to accept the solitariness that comes with the territory, but also to come to love it. These criteria are based on the recognition that ‘no good deed goes unpunished’; chronic criticism is if anything, often a sign that the leader is functioning better! Vision is not enough.
These insights led to a major shift in my mode of consultation with regard to both families and work systems. With families, I stopped creating encyclopedias of data about all their issues and began to search instead for the member with the greatest capacity to be the leader as I have defined it. That person generally turned out to be the one who could express himself or herself with the least amount of blaming and the one who had the greatest capacity to take responsibility for his or her own emotional being and destiny. I began to coach the ‘leader’ alone, letting the rest of the family drop out and stay home. I stopped trying to get people to communicate or find better ways to manage their issues. Instead, I began to concentrate on helping the leader to become better defined and to learn how to deal adroitly with the sabotage that almost invariably followed any success in this endeavor. Soon I found the rest of the family ‘in therapy’ whether or not they came into my office.
I then started to function this same way with organizations, regardless of their nature, their purpose, or their size. I stopped collecting mounds of data, trying to foster team building, focusing on difficult people. I stopped polling workers or going around the different divisions. Instead, I concentrated on working with only one or two leaders at the top.
Next, I began to establish leadership seminars emphasizing the self-differentiation of the leader rather than focusing on method and technique. But this type of focus on self-differentiation, I also learned, is not easy to foster, especially when society’s own emotional processes are in a state of regression. Frankly, it is easier to focus on data and technique. Yet, at this point, I am convinced that to the extent leaders of any family or institution are willing to make a lifetime commitment to their own continual self-regulated growth, they can make any leadership theory or technique look brilliant. And, conversely, to the extent they avoid that commitment, no theory or technique is likely to succeed for very long.”
We, the BTL builders, are gardeners. We are here to provide the conditions for your growth. We cannot make you into something you are not (nor is this necessary) any more than a gardener can plant seeds for strawberries and turn them into watermelons. Our opus is to provide the conditions for you to grow into, well, Y.O.U.! We know only a few have the desire to completely blossom. Most humans just want to be left alone and produce whatever fruit comes “naturally.” So, when you notice a BTL builder spending an inordiant amount of time pruning, watering, and focusing on a few – all you’ve got to do is ask for some attention to come toward you. As gardeners we won’t cut you to your roots when you do. We will prune as best we’re able, but it’s still an imperfect process – it’s gonna hurt.
Remember, pruning is a good idea until you’re the one being pruned.
Slow down and embrace this truth. When was the last time you asked to be pruned? How did it feel in the pruning moment of truth? What do you see months later when you honestly look in the mirror? Was it worth the acute pain? Do you understand this is why growth and loss go together? Are you more pruner or prunee? Why is it important to be both? Slow down and sit with this one for awhile. Slow down.
Live hard. Love harder (Thanks, Teeks)…