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Re-inflating Our Leadership Models

Last week, Gallup advertised a leadership and organizational development program that I’d imagined coming from Wisdom Works. I felt deflated. Instead of igniting my inner fires of competition or a spirit of collaboration with like-minded colleagues, this news took the wind out of my expectations of myself. It may sound like overreaction, but at the time I really felt like my very model of leadership had let me down.

You see, part of what I expect of myself as CEO of Wisdom Works is to be the visionary: advancing new, healthier approaches to leadership for individuals, teams, and entire organizations. This expectation is integral to the personal model of leadership I’ve always held as my standard. Getting “beat to market” put that very leadership model up for review.

Our personal leadership models are the unique combination of what we require of ourselves, our attitudes, our hopes and fears, and ultimately how we measure success as leaders. When life and work are humming along, few of us give our underlying leadership model any notice. But when expectations fizzle and pop, we have the chance to peer inside and see what exactly our model was — and to learn how it sustained our resolve back when things were going smooth.

At Wisdom Works we employ many tools to help characterize and refine leadership models. WisdomScape®, for instance, articulates tenets that are fundamental to creating a vision, managing expectations, and responding to let-downs. If I’d been at my resourceful best, I would have realized that our principle of “Taking a Big Picture Approach to Complex Situations” could have helped me in this scenario. Well, I wasn’t exactly at my best — and so I remained deflated.

Earth as a Pale Blue Dot in the Universe

Later, when I stopped to think about it, I had to admit that while tools are helpful for characterizing and refining your model of leadership, that is just a part of the equation. In my case, as totally flat as I was feeling, I would need something more.

Sometimes the answers to our bigger questions as leaders require a shift in perspective. In the midst of my meltdown, I received this blog featuring Carl Sagan’s view of the Earth. To Sagan the Earth is no larger than a pale blue dot in a vast universe — a view inspired by this NASA Voyager 1 photograph which literally captures that very vantage point: the Earth from 4 billion miles away.

To some this perspective might seem overly humbling, but to leaders this is a call to action, the impetus to put aside frustration and recommit to our highest callings. For me, it was the long exhale I needed to re-inflate my resolve and recommit to my leadership model: I picked up the phone and called Gallup. We’ll see what sort of collaborative work we can do to make the most of our combined resources.

Photos by gemsling and NASA