Christin Nevins

Unhurried Leadership

Recently I had the opportunity be with a small group of folks to hear from Alan Fadling, author of The Unhurried Life. We had an interesting dialog about how hurry drives us to anxiety and burnout as leaders. I had to laugh when one woman shared that her company’s word for the year is Velocity. Yikes.

Fadling points out that one can be productive, even busy, while still embodying an unhurried way of being. This contrast is striking for me. I’m coming to realize that busyness is not what wears me out; it’s an internal sense of feeling driven and compulsive that keeps me from resting, even during evenings, weekends, and vacations at times.

Three False Beliefs

One driver of hurry is a sense that whatever I have or do is never enough. Here are three common beliefs that can drive us:

  • I am what I do –> Do more.
  • I am what I have –> Get more.
  • I am what people say about me –> Get more people to like me.

I wrestle with all of these in some form from time to time. The best test for me to see how I’m doing with these three false beliefs is to notice my internal reaction when I am unable to do or have what I want. How do I respond when people don’t like me or don’t agree with me? Can I stay centered or does it throw me off balance? Does compulsiveness or anxiety creep in?

Scarcity vs. Abundance

Another way of describing that sense of “never enough” is scarcity thinking. The opposite, of course, is abundance thinking. That is a sense that there is enough of what is most needed for everyone. I’ve found that different people struggle with scarcity thinking at different levels – some hardly at all, some a great deal. Fadling contrasts these notions, describing abundance mentality as “my cup overflows” and scarcity mentality as “please fill my cup.” I found this statement striking: “it’s hard to lead people from whom I desperately need something.”

The implications (for us as leaders, shapers of organizational culture, and members of families) are tremendous. Unhurried, abundant leaders, families, and organizational cultures tend to be more creative, innovative, and sustainable. Stress, illness, silos, and employee turnover show up in compulsive, competitive environments.

Leadership is, first and foremost, influence. How are you and I influencing our environments? Do we even realize the subtle messages we might be sending?

I have to wonder:  is it even realistic to be busy and highly productive out of an unhurried mindset? I’m really interested to hear your thoughts.

I know that healthy leadership is a long game. I’m fascinated with the concept of living an unhurried life. Fadling’s next book, due out in May, is The Unhurried Leader.

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