My 13-year-old son Kael was babysitting my 10-year-old son Zeff last week. Upon my return from an appointment, I asked Kael how it went. “Zeff was pretty good, but he disobeyed me.”
I’m going to let you in on a little secret…
I hate failing! I hate looking like I don’t know what I’m doing or that I wasn’t adequately prepared. I usually try to avoid that at all costs. I was reminded of this pattern just a few weeks ago during a staff meeting. During a spirited exchange of ideas, I just sat there. I had thoughts and opinions running through my head, but I was silent. In that moment, I realized 3 things about my relationship with failure.
Lately I’ve had three experiences that have led me to the same conclusion: it’s time to step up my game as a leader…
I’ve been knocked off-center. National-level politics, police shootings of defenseless citizens, the assassinations of police, and terrorist attacks around the world have all fed my sense of chaos, discouragement, and vulnerability. I’ve become disillusioned. The world is a mess.
What is my posture towards the assassins, terrorists, self-serving politicians, and lawless police?
The date was January 1998. I’d been out of school for a mere 8 months and suddenly found myself the leader to a team of 10 individuals. This was a critical heat experience in my career. Heat experiences are those intense moments in a leader’s life when the heat gets turned on. Criteria for a heat experience include…
I looked back to the other side of the crosswalk I’d just rushed through. The rest of our group was still on the other side. Their faces reflected annoyance, impatience, and disappointment. I knew I had been pushing it to rush across the wide South Chicago intersection, and I thought others would be willing to do the same. I was a college sophomore in an urban immersion experience. In that intersection, I experienced a defining leadership moment.
I’m the Co-Founder and President of Rare Bird, an internet marketing firm. I’ve recently had the opportunity, if you will, to experience a pretty significant sea change in my world, and it allowed me the chance to reflect on how we react to changes of all kinds.
A few months ago, one of my business partners left the company after 18 years. He was the very definition of a key man: with me from the beginning, he was an integral part of the way we ran the business, the success we’ve had, and the decisions we made. When the opportunity to run a family business came up, he discussed it with several trusted advisors and decided to make the leap. From my perspective, it was the right choice, even though it would require huge changes for his entire family — not to mention being incredibly disruptive for Rare Bird.
Seth Godin poses this question in his book, Linchpin. This little book has rocked my world, and has me thinking about leadership, and life in general, in new and exciting ways.
“Leader” is a term I’ve always labeled myself with. In fact my parents love embarrassing me by sharing stories of me playing with the neighborhood kids at age 4. All the kids would come to our house and ask: “Alyssa, what are we going to play today?” I’d develop the agenda and start assigning roles…
We had great intentions when we moved our young and growing family into a tough, inner city neighborhood. We were going to be part of the solution. We invested 10 years of our lives there. And boy do I have some stories.
Here’s the thing. With all the good that we did, something was increasingly missing. It took ten years of living there and three years living other places to figure it out.
I was driving west on Kessler Boulevard in Indianapolis, near where it passes under the Monon Trail and the right lane ends. In the left lane, mentally zoned out, I was cruising at or slightly above the speed limit. I snapped out of my reverie when a driver sped past me in the right lane, then pulled in front of me before his lane ended. I felt a hot flash of anger. I sped up and started thinking about how I could pass him (over double yellow lines) and cut him off before the light at College Avenue. My blood was boiling.