When I told family and friends that I was moving to Central Australia they thought that I was joking. You? Really? The Outback? I also heard from friends and strangers alike that if I hate it, I could just come home. Or if schools here are bad, I can just home school. Lots of advice about what I can “just do” but few questions about what I thought, my why, feelings or expectations. Ultimately, it was just a lot of projecting their expectations, ideas and vision onto me. Hummm. Got me thinking about leadership and the power of a fresh perspective.
Why did I decide to move all the way from DC Metro to a town called Alice? I don’t think I knew half of what I’d learn before my move (and I’m still learning!) but here’s the short list of what I discovered about myself and about leadership:
- Lose the autopilot. Leaders that do what they’ve always done are on autopilot. “Been there, done that” fills the lives of many leaders. Part of the essence of leadership is inspiration not repetition. Moving to a small town showed me that I was living my life in a constant blur. DC Metro is filled with large buildings and bumper-to-bumper traffic. Most workdays, I saw little more than the inside of my home, car, and office. I drove the same way every single place I went. I ate in the same restaurants and I often ordered the same things. In Alice there is space to breathe. The mountains, that others feared would make me feel isolated, serve to connect me to where I am in a beautiful and powerful way. No longer am I driving past a blur of scenery but instead, I am present.
- Stretch in new ways. I wasn’t afraid to move overseas, I was excited. However, now that I’m here, I still feel the stretch. Many people that gave me the “you’re crazy” look when they heard about my move were holding onto the comfort of the lives that they know. Doing new things, taking new assignments, working with new teams, working on new projects all of those things stretch us. Use the nerves that you feel and use them to feed your energy. Leaders don’t face stretch with fear, they stretch and learn and grow from the experience.
- We are not so different. Seems funny that I thought that maybe all of these Australians would somehow look different than me. They sound different but we’re the same. We have families, we work, we go to the grocery store, plan vacations on and on. As leaders, it’s critical to remember that one person on the team may have a title that gives them a level of authority but everyone on the team is human. Everyone has ideas, fears, strengths and challenges. Titles are just ways to identify our role. Leaders connect with people, not other titles.
- Have a vision. While I had been to Australia previously, I’d never been to Alice Springs. I thought a lot about what my life would be like in Alice. I created intentions for myself around how I would spend my time, how I would work on my business as a coach and consultant, how we would be as a family. Having a strong sense of my vision, even when others didn’t share it, gave us a place to start talking and engaging. Sharing a vision and enrolling others in what’s possible is an essential leadership skill.
- Everyone is entitled to an opinion. I moved despite what others thought but that doesn’t make me right and make them wrong. I love and appreciate that all of these people had opinions and took the time to share them with me. Having an opinion and communicating it with care and respect is a part of leadership. The key is to realize that viewpoints that are different from your own are simply that, different. As a leader, it’s important to ask questions, learn about their perspectives and make your own decisions.
When was the last time you took action to shift your perspective? Big or small changes can still help to fill our lives and leadership with more creativity and impact.