The gift of darkness is finding bright.
Dark days are coming for you. If you haven’t felt the darkness yet, you will. I’m being optimistic.
Your response to the dark days of life determines your future.
Simon Sinek, author of, “Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t,” told me he found his passion in the darkness.
Lone Rangers fail:
Leaders are crushed by the false belief that they succeed in isolation – darkness.
Simon said, “When I attempted to save myself from this dark period, things seemed to get worse.”
“It was only when close friends … assured me they would catch me … that I had the courage to share with them I was in a bad place…. It was their courage and willingness to stand close to me when I tried something new that I was able to come out of it.
Simon in his own words (1 min. 26 sec.)
The profound choice of leadership is the choice to defeat isolation.
Everyone who changes the world does it with others.
Solve isolation by connecting. But, don’t beg people to connect with you. Connect with them.
Connection – the essential act of leadership – requires safety. Simon believes safe environments are developed when we make the, “Choice to put the interests of others above ourselves.”
Choosing leadership is choosing to serve others, not coercing others to serve you.
I’m often asked if anyone can lead.
Sinek said leaders make the, “Choice to care for the person to the left of us and the person to the right of us.” If leading is putting the interests of others above ourselves, you can lead now.
The gift of darkness arrives when you connect with others. The meaning, purpose, and passion of your leadership is found only in community.
How have dark days formed your leadership?
Follow Simon on twitter: @SimonSinek
Surviving darkness helps you relate to, and encourage others, who have gone through similar darkness. If you are depressed, you tend to discount well-meaning advice, even if it is technically sound, from someone who has never been depressed, because you don’t connect with them.
This blog and these updates have been incredibly helpful to me as I lead a growing team. Thank you for making the effort. I’d also love a copy of this book by Mr. Sinek. Thank you!
“We are here to awaken from our illusion of separateness.”
― Thích Nhất Hạnh
I relate this to my position as a Division 3 college basketball coach. Right now we are 1-10-those are dark days in sports-and your leadership definitely gets tested. You have to stay positive, keep the kids believing that things will turn around. Emphasize the importance of coming in every day and working hard and not feeling sorry for yourself. With 10 freshmen it’s even harder because they’ve never been through something like this. We talk every day about the lessons learned now will pay off later in life when they may be faced with some real adversity. And , maybe the most important thing is to stay focused in the classroom.
Hang in there coach! As a former basketball player on a Canadian College team, we had a losing record throughout our year. It was tough at times to stay positive and encouraged. Remember you’re teaching these guys so much more than the game of basketball and this will be an opportunity for them to find courage and resilience in life off the court. So thankful for coaches and influencers like you who invest in the lives of students!
Hey Brad you know who passed the Leadership Test? Ok one dude who passed the Leadership Test?
Cicero!!!!! Burn the dang ships!!!! No other result possible!!!!!! Win or die!!!!
Putting it all on the line, for real and THEN the way introduces itself.
Not just like really really wanting to! Oh it would be so cool. No, putting it in terms of no other option but winning.
Winning books down to stories. The one whose story wins, wins.
Go bananas on the mental preparation. Be the best coach in the history if the world in the mental game with your kids. You are SO LUCKY cause they believe you and care about you.
Use that to leverage getting their brains working better, together as a team.
Teach them the Law of Synergy! Understand it yourself first. Get the brain functioning better the body follows.
Let the other coaches work on X’s and O’s with taller more talented kids. Work to develop the brains of ur kids.
Teach them about NLP. Get them to Model Michael Jordan.
See Coach they are modeling now. They are modeling players who are 1 and 10 and you a coach of a 1 and 10 team. Don’t change that model your results will repeat. Promise.
On the other hand you turn mentally and start a new pattern, BE JOHN WOODEN.
He developed MEN, character, integrity, teamwork. The coaches his teams pulverized focused on X’s and O’s and man if we had better players we could beat those jokers!!!! Bull!!! He was teaching a different game!! So u do that!!!!
Read Woodens books and see what the players said AFTER. Coach Wooden taught me more about life than how to shoot a jumper!!!
Set the pattern of feeling after the victory!!!! Feel dat guys!!!!! Over and over and over work to build that feeling they get when they get more points at the end of the game.
Create an epic story of Redemtion!!!! Yeah we were 1 and 10!!!!! Then first we DECIDED.
You have GREAT opportunity with young fresh minds not messed up by other coaches!!!! That ain’t bad, that is GREAT!!!!! Teach them right from the start!!!!!!
Work the minds while other coaches work their kids bodies and see what happens.
Start believing yourself, unbridled, unmatched ridiculous passion!!!
Guys we got a chance to turn this season around from 1 and 10 and start right NOW go get serious you know what!!!! We can finish an epic story or finish with a story no one will ever care to hear, especially us! What is your life gonna be like your choice choose right now!!!!!
Learn now fellas what to do when life smacks you in the face and knocked you down where you know u can’t get up.
Then get up and kick ass!!!!!! It is not that life kicks you it will it is the fierce determination you get right back up with and say THANK YOU, may I have another!!!!!!! I will NEVER give up so you might as well quit!!!!!
Teach those kids that and read Simons Book and Start all of them with Why. Learn from bandler, model Wooden and you should be fine!!! Lol
Now this educational problem we got going on!!!!! Whew that is gonna take some doing to get better!!
Our kids being 28th and 31st is not pissing people off enough. How brain dead Americans have to be, not to have those numbers piss them off is beyond me but what I choose to work with cause it is gonna change or I will die trying. No other option. Anyone who wants to help me help our kids let me know. Could use some help.
Anyways hope you look into some of this stuff, might help, right, hey what u got to lose but the rest of your games, your job, your house……
Yeah changing stuff up might just be a good idea!!!! Hehe
SP out. My hope is you look into this stuff and create an epic rest of the story. Pulling for ya!!!
It helps me to lean on others for support and help. And consider the wisdom of others who’ve been through dark times.I think it has given me more empathy with other peoples positions in life
Darkness, seems to happen to all of us at one time or another, could be the passing of a loved one, or we realize the fact a project we lead failed. My experiences have been to nurture the fact life does goes on, even when we think the worst! We can make thinks better as long as we view the perspective we can make things better and put darkness behind us, I realize not always that simple
Sometimes a smile clears darkness, or just seeing the Sunshine.
Though making all the decisions and everything having to be micro managed feeds the ego of certain individuals, it isn’t great for the overall morale or leadership of the people. Being a leader requires having people working with you or they will work against you. I have seen this first hand in my former profession as a SRT leader for a government agency. Supervisors that managed and didn’t know how to lead were always shunned by the staff working for them. In certain cases they would conspire against that individual because being micro managed was a cause for dislike. Lead with passion, lead with integrity, and most of all lead from the front. That’s the way to success and getting people to work for and with you.
Thanks for today’s post – in looking at successful leaders, there is a great support team sharing their journey – coworkers, family, and friends. It is good to reflect on those who are your greatest supporters!
Yo homey………………..you know how we notice stuff?
Contrast. If there was no down I would not know what up was.
Ying/yang, up-down, in-out…….yada yada yada.
Oh yeah Oxytocin,-Cortisol!!!!!!!!!!!!!
So understanding this is how things work helps take the drama out of the feelings. Feelings are not facts. Whatever they are, they are temporary, an illusion! Plus if I created one and do not like it I can choose another. I could choose peace instead of this is a cool choice!
Plus no matter my circumstances if I am the Master of my Emotions like Simon Potter told me I am…….I have 6000 emotions in me at all times. The ones I choose, I experience I choose. I choose then start the process of bringing that chosen emotion to the surface.
State, of mind, emotion are choices, not results. Not getting it, study Richard Bandler, maybe learn something useful you knew nothing about. Or stay unaware, it is your experience, not mine.
Glad to see you talked with Simon Dan, you like him? Believe what he believes?
What is next, interviewing Bob Chapman?
SP back to oxytocin! Here is an idea, do 3 acts of random epic kindness today and do not tell anyone!
“”Choosing leadership is choosing to serve others, not coercing others to serve you.””
This is profound, when we sense the opposite it breaks down everything.. trust.. credibility.. even the ability to connect at all.
If our primary lens is our needs, our goals, then we are not leaders…
Been a fan of Simon’s for a few years and look forward to reading his new book.
Love Simon. Why, what, how…..in that order. Changes EVERYTHING!
You Sir ROCK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Where have the Dudes who “GET” the order been??????
Start With Why……our brains do!!!!!
SP back to developing an epic oxytocin pipeline !!!!
I would “Turn off the lights!!!”
Thanks & Regards,
WOW! This is a very powerful post and one that I will keep rereading and share with others. Thank you for sharing! As we collaborate together, we find success!
I guess I found a new inspiration.
I work in school leadership. I took a choice of undertaking my first senior leadership position in an inner city school plagued with racial, social and aspirational schisms. The leadership of this school was fixated on outcomes which meant to lead in anything other than a coercive fashion was frowned upon. It was a dark place!
I learned so much during that time about perception and motivation and how two leaders can be motivated by the same moral purpose but perceive the situation in such different ways and as such act in very different capacities. I also learned a lot about being a ‘toxic handler’ without collusion.
I like to think that by the time I moved on I had developed and demonstrated a leadership style that valued individuals within the systems and processes, The light comes when demands give way to trust, when the invisible receive commendation and recognition and when teams obtain an alignment and then an attunement through which they operate effectively.
The “dark night of the soul” first moves inward to find a true center (core self) then outward into service in community
over coming the darkeness makes you better prepared for the light.
As Pulitzer Prize author/poet Mary Oliver stated: “Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift.” ….today’s post reinforces that we need to find the gifts in whatever form they take.
This post resonates with me. There are times when things get difficult for everyone. It is what makes us human and real. Having those connections with others is what lifts us up to see what we are capable of. Have others in your life.
Great post! Two quotes come to mind. I believe it was Andy Stanley at a LeaderCast two years ago who said: if we didn’t have crisis we wouldn’t need leaders. Uncertainty, or as you mention Dan, darkness is the field of leadership. Most anyone can keep a boat from taking on a water when the seas are calm 🙂
The other quote in regards to serving others is from John C. Maxwell with the familiar adage: People do not care how much you know, until they know how much you care. Often we can view darkness, or crisis as an opportunity to be the hero – but the most powerful act of influence can be an act of service. Thanks again for a great post.
Right down the transformational leadership line. Focus on the developmental desires needs of others and let the rest happen. This is not an abdication of responsibility but an extension of it through others. The old African proverb say “To go fast, go alone, to go far, go with others.”
Having been in the dark before I cherish every moment in the light and work to get others to see it!
This post really resonates with me. Getting through darkness is difficult in isolation. Connection is powerful because it has the capacity to show you what you are capable of even when you don’t see it. In a previous post you talked about determining one word for your New Year’s resolution. I had chosen connection because anything is possible when your have others in your life.
The false front most people ascribe to leadership is power, whereas, as you illuminate, the fundamental attribute is servanthood. Most people are attracted to the idea of having power, but many eschew the duty of serving. Thus, we end up with many bosses or even tyrants masquerading as leaders because they misunderstood the job requirements. Great insight!
Our tendency toward isolation is more or less based in the idea that”I can do it better than anyone else.” It takes true humility to acknowledge the importance of others when it comes to solving the problems that leaders face.
I have worked with leaders who truly believed they had to lead alone, even though they were surrounded by people who wanted to help them. However, because they believed they were alone, they were not able to connect with those around them. I just need to think of those leaders to remind myself to reach out and connect with the people around me. Everyone moves forward a lot faster when we’re rowing together than rowing alone.
How oh how do you come out of dark days? I am trying so hard but the bleakness is making it difficult for me to take the risks necessary to emerge!
Hi Emily. If this is your first visit to the land of darkness, rest assured that your bus ticket is round trip. No matter how permanent the bleakness feels, it will eventually lift like a fog burning off slowly. If you’ve been to Bleakville before, just remember how you got to go home eventually and take comfort. May your bus pull into the station soon!
Emily I hear your call and here with help from another SP. now up to u out up or shut up!!!! Hehe
One day I felt just like u are saying. Got a book called The Greatest Miracle in the World!!!! Yipeeee!
I DID what it suggested. Never met not one person who DID follow the instructions to the letter! I just I trusted Simon Potter cause I had NOTHING to lose.
I looked at the directions of The God Memorandum and said, “no way I can do that”!!!!!
I had to break it down a day at a time. I might not make it the whole time in the directions, but I HURT enough right now to follow the directions TONIGHT!
I did that till I got in a roll, 21 days and created a new habit. Then the rest of the suggested time was easier!
Still completing those directions gave me a gift I hope you will give yourself. You will never be the same.
You can probably google The God Memorandum and get it free. The story in the book that goes along with it is worth buying the book which you can probably find on amazon for 2 bucks used.
Only way I get new books is winning them here!!! Lol
Anyway the deal is this day you have been contacted dear one.
Got to read the book to get that and if u do follow the directions being a ragpicker on the side ain’t a half bad gig, promise!!
Hope you google, download and read and feel silly wearing that amulet just like I did!!
SP. 3 random acts of kindness releases a flood of oxytocin!!!!! Try it see how it feels, just don’t tell anyone what good deeds ya did!!!! That is just selfish bragging!
These words hit home for me. I managed to escape the darkness in December 2013. It took the unwavering support of friends and family to see the light again.
“Solve isolation by connecting.” I love the idea that connection is an essential act of leadership!
I often think that the “managing people” part of leadership is no different than customer service, be positive, attentive to their needs, build a relationship and care more about them than the business so they will feel like they want to come back each day to help the business grow.
Patrick, it would be great if more people in customer service roles worked by your ethos. Too many put their business before the customer and therefore are not “customer service”, as they are not really serving the customer.
Good analogy to the role of the leader.
This blog was one that hit really close to home for me. I am still a newby leader, trying to understand what my leadership style is and how to adapt it to better accomplish what I need to get done. I am guilty of the “if I want something done right, do it myself’ mentality, and this blog has helped me realize the importance of connecting with other people, because I can accomplish so much more when I come out of isolation. Very nice blog. Look forward to reading them every day.
This may be particularly valuable as an antidote to those who believe leadership is simply always “lonely.” Now, how to create community with busy, often-isolated team members…
I’ve been there! Love the part of the article that tells us to connect with others instead of making them connect with you. It really is an issue of the direction of our motivations. Are we willing to connect with someone for the sake of connection or does there always have to be something in it for me.
Serving others is a personal goal! I found an obstacle for me in serving. I had to learn how to receive from others. This was very hard and I continue this struggle. I would love to learn more about my leadership as I stuggle.
In the darkest time in my own life, I learned that I could only work on myself and bring the best “me” to the situation. I also found that “working on myself” meant taking a risk and trusting others to know who I was and how I was feeling/functioning at the moment. Not many were in that intimate circle– just enough to give me the safety net to connect with others outside the circle and grow. Darkness is a gift– when you have trusted peers, colleagues and companions to walk with you into a lighter place.
Before you can be a master to others you have to master yourself. These dark moments offer time for reflection, re-assessment, and re-uniting with the group with a renewed sense of purpose.
Very interesting perspective and analogy. I feel as thought this is a mistake commonly made by young leaders especially. The transition from individual contributor to manager or leader is not an easy one. It truly is that: a transition. Thanks for sharing!
It is easy to isolate and just focus on what is next or the problem at hand, but it is our community where we find the strength and encouragement and help to truly do great things. Excellent stuff, I can’t wait to hear more from your conversation with him.
Totally agree with you, getting out of darkness by connecting with others!
We are leading a team in planting a church and this was a great blog! “Everyone who changes the world does it with others.” BOOM!
Great post, lots more of our “leaders” need to see this and understand. Thanks for the great blogs.
It took 41 years before I experienced a true dark spot, but it has made me stronger.
Self-doubt and uncertainty have led many of us to circulate inside our own cells of darkness for days and sometimes weeks and months. When we do this, our teams languish and even when they can’t explain what they see and feel, they know their leader isn’t asking the right questions, making the right calls or delegating the projects in the most efficient ways. I appreciate this post immensely and find it just what I needed to read as I head in to my team’s first meeting of the year. I’ve been avoiding meetings with them because they frustrate me so; but as I’m reminded here, it’s time I reach out to my inner circle and explore ways to pull myself up and out.
I also appreciate poster adamgdriscoll’s use of the Maxwell quote. The team needs to know I care even though we are in tough times.
Great reminder this morning of the power of community. The strength within us shines brighter when shared with others and makes me think of the concept of a burning candle… one candle’s light does not diminish when it lights another. Our challenge today is to create learning environments that encourage students to learn the skills of collaboration and cooperation.
This post is so true. We can’t do life alone but so many of us try. “WE are smarter, stronger and more capable than I am.”
Very good post. I especially appreciate the reminder that connectedness comes from safety, and as leaders our role in creating that. It ties in with Daniel Pinks work, which serves as a guide for me. Mob yeah, and as a previous Jungian, those dark nights, as difficult as they may be, have resulted in the greatest awakenings. Thanks,
Heck, I’m still focusing on the “one word” post: HEALTH! And now I have to consider the powerful word CONNECT. Both are about optimal wellness…even as we contemplate darkness–which I have experienced and today know is but a night time journey of discovery. And, yes, I even think we can take this trip alone because it ultimately brings us to the significance of others.
Dan, I wish to make an observation of your readership. They remind me of the few physicians who attend medical “ethics” conventions. Ironically, those few physicians who attend are NOT the docs who
need to be there: It’s the ones who don’t attend who need to be there to learn how to be better and more ethical persons.
I would immediately work for any one of your readers just because of their spirit for betterment…for others and their own.
Rumi said “What hurts you, blesses you. Darkness is your candle.”
It’s never easy when you are in the midst of darkness…but personal growth most often occurs as a result. It is not the circumstances of darkness that determine our standing…but how we respond. If we allow ourselves to be doomed by the darkness, then the darkness wins. The great thing is that WE choose our response. We are not enslaved to our circumstances.
Great post…and great perspective on leadership (“Choosing leadership is choosing to serve others, not coercing others to serve you.”).
It can be tough when there are obstacles AND darkness. We forge ahead and we stumble. We can make our plans, but never fully know what lies ahead. I’m learning that’s okay. You still need to plan and seek wise counsel to get through those times.
My faith tells me that the Light shines in the darkness and the darkness does not overcome it. I believe that and I know from experience that dark places are often the places where I connect with others and where I experience my greatest growth. Darkness is difficult and darkness is a gift.
Great quote: “If leading is putting the interests of others above ourselves, you can lead now.” Thanks!
I’m sure someone once said, “You don’t choose leadership, it is thrust upon you.” – If not, I just did 🙂
People can’t be made to follow leaders (not in a true sense), they choose to follow leaders. I have found that people follow leaders that are fair – not always soft or easy – just fair. Oh, and honest. The kind of person who says things like,..”here’s the situation, here’s my plan, here’s your role, take a look at it and let me know if you can improve it. If not, let’s move… – Leadership
And to keep with the subject of today – true leaders light the way.
Anyone can lead. Not everyone gets to be the boss. Important distinction.
Isn’t it interesting that you can talk about darkness and while mentioning it’s effect’s, touch a broad spectrum of it’s ‘side-effects’. Concider the term, ‘under the cloak of darkness’. Most would agree, the term might suggest one’s vision is clouded by Darkness. That facts and images are unclear. Yet darkness such as traggedies, personal losses, or challenges, often are the most revealing moments of our lives which show our ‘True Character’. Many in my field hold passing judgment on an individual until they’ve observed them ‘in the Line of Fire’. Why? Because advercity and challenges take us through the valley’s of life, revealing our strenghts and weakness that otherwise go unnoticed, and untested. Even though this is valuable infromation to know about our colleages, IT IS MUCH MORE IMPORTANT that we know these things about ourselves.Often we are much stronger than we think we are, sometimes not so much. It’s in the knowing and growing that make us a stronger, better, more resiliant person. Darkness reveals ones ‘True’ Character… “Good one Dano”! Cheers
To align with what Simon Sinek has said in previous writings…..WHY am I in this darkness? HOW will I get to the brighter light? WHAT will change as a result of this experience? Considering the darkness is also important as we strategically plan and anticipate all sides and consequences of our decisions. The best part of the post is the fact that leaders must depend on their connections for counsel and guidance, because together we can achieve more!
Forward for ever forward at the end of the tunnel is the light,
at the end of the fight is the victory .
Sharing at times is one of the most difficult things to do. However, as we admit our weaknesses as leaders, those who stand beside us with selfless intentions, begin to fill in the cracks which solidifies our foundation making us stronger through others.
Thanks Dan. Great insight, as always. I mostly connect people and use the collective wisdom to solve my problems, but recent conversations with my manager seem to allude that to prove my worth and value I need to come up with solutions on my own. It just seems counterintuitive and non-productive to me. All of us know more than one of us.
How do I counter that mindset? (You know why he’s thinking that – the annual performance ranking – how do we prove that one employee is better than another.)
Simon’s stuff is great of course. Thanks for connecting with him and sharing.
Great post. Thanks
What a meaningful, profound piece – especially the reminder of being open to connection but not forcing it? In my experience that comes from truly understanding who you lead and learning with and knowing what level of support they’re comfortable with and need. Learning focused conversations really support this
I have definitely had some darker days in leadership. One thing that really pops up in my head as i read this blog is that leadership, more than anything, is more enjoyable if you do it with others. The worst part about being a Lone Ranger is not only that it wears you out, causes you to be ineffective and overwhelmed, but also that it can get lonely and exhausting. If you fail (or should I say, When you fail), you carry the blame, the responsibility and the fault for that error, and that is a weight no leader should have to carry alone.
This article reminds me of the historical understanding of the dark night of the soul. Yes, there is some wonderful growth in times of darkness if we are willing to “let go and let God.” How ironic, though, despite the understanding of darkness or wilderness in Christian history, I find that many colleagues and others do everything they can to avoid the darkness. Maybe it has to do with our cultural understanding that comfort and a life of ease should be core beliefs. During my dark times (and great spiritual growth), it was amazing how few Christian folk were willing to walk with me. I think we need to rethink what identifies spiritual health in our denominations beyond numbers, church plants and money. Without facing the darkness, we usually end up following the path of superficiality.
Personal growth is beautiful. Assisting the growth of others is priceless.
This post touches a deep cord with me. It was a period of my darkest days that taught me the most — and mostly it taught me that no one person can solve all the issues and challenges that get heaped on us during dark days. It’s friends, business partners, family — and in my case, even being able to trush in a higher power — that got me through; AND taught me so much.
They’ve helped me to focus on what is most important, family. Had success come quickly, it would be mush easier I think to continue focusing on that versus the needs of my family.
“Choosing leadership is choosing to serve others, not coercing others to serve you.” Strongest comment in the post today, in my opionion. Never underestimate the power found in servant leadership.
Talk about a word in due season! “Your response to the dark days of life determines your future.” This really inspired me. Every person experiences darkness. However, I’m beginning to realize that it’s this darkness that truly builds character & develops leadership. I am experiencing how this darkness is shaping who I am as a leader. Can’t wait to read the book!
Darkness is never fun to go through. When you’re in it, you have no idea that you’re growing and expanding your abilities and also getti tougher. I had a recent experience of this in work. When true in th darkness, you’re just coping.
Turning to others for helpless is essential. Humans are pack animals. We survive together. This is a great blog post
Wow…This is exactly what I am going through. In fact our theme for this year is “Connection-Creator, Church, Community! There are times when things happen that caused me to want to isolate. The darkness visits. I remembered telling our interns for many years, “leaders eat last” I was reminded of that today and am ready to serve others even in the midst of the darkness.
Thanks a bunch Dan for this great post. I’m a firm believer that in each great leader’s journey lies a moment when they figure out that they can’t do it all themselves. Love Simon & can’t wait to read his latest.
Simon nails it here. Leaders are always subject to the pull of isolation. It seems to be part of the definition of leadership. But Simon reminds us that our leadership is diminished if we are not intimately connected to others. Could there be a better example of this than Jesus?
My dark days were when I felt the drive for Leadership but not the desire to have my own “team”. I realized with help from my Leadership professor at Rollins (Dr. Bommelje, author of “Listening Leaders” & “Listening Pays”) that anyone can be a leader through listening, giving, and guiding with meaningful direction. I’ve taken that fully to heart and proudly consider myself a leader despite not having the traditional role of “managing” others directly.
I will definitely be sharing this post with Dr. Bommelje and thank you for re-iterating it once again for me and your “followers/leaders”.
Thank you, Dan. We have only to look at the gridlock situations in our society to see change only occurs “WITH others”. Isolation is a powerful magnet – there is false safety in avoiding the different or unpleasant or unknown. This can apply not only to leaders, but also entire groups.
Finding brightness out of the dark can feel insurmountable at times. In 2011 we were beginning the exit from Iraq and I led the military’s personnel recovery team attempting to locate & bring back the remains of the last 2 missing servicemembers. We launched many missions resulting in “dry-holes”. On top of that, the officer above me was wholly self-interested and his actions and inappropriate conduct would constantly undermine our mission. Managing the darkness my teams would feel upon their return without our nation’s heroes coupled with destructive “leadership” from my superior placed the burden of this darkness on my shoulders. We would have to remind ourselves that despite the outcome, despite the ineptitude from above, we needed to remember we made a commitment to our brothers in arms that we leave no one behind. The mission was bigger then one man, one mission. From that drakness, came the light that we were there for a much nobler cause.
Loved this post, and also reading everyone’s comments!
“Connection” is most certainly an overarching theme. One thing I have found, personally, and observed in other great leaders is that truly connecting with others, in personal life and business, requires vulnerability.
As Chip Borgstadt said above, “taking a risk and trusting others to know who I was and how I was feeling/functioning at the moment.”
I also completely agree with avlfurniture that “It takes true humility to acknowledge the importance of others when it comes to solving the problems that leaders face.”
It can feel like an unsurmountable risk to humble oneself and be vulnerable with anyone – close friend and business associate. However, the dividends pay out more than you can imagine!
I’d greatly appreciate the opportunity to read Simon Sinek’s book, to help me grow in this particular area.
I saw Simon’s talk on 99u, and it blew what I thought I had known about leadership out of the water.
The way that he described leaders in communities offered a refreshing perspective that made a lot of sense.
And no, I can’t be a leader without connecting with other people and having human interaction. That’s really the only way.
Thanks for this article and the giveaway!
Leadership does not need a title. Leaders lead and people follow. being a leader is something you either have or you do not.
Great advise it’s too easy to fall into this trap.
These have been very dark times for me as well. I keep going by digging in and working for others in order to find purpose and meaning in what I do. The act of serving has reminded me that I am not in this alone and that leadership can be found in simplicity. The concept of servant leader has always appealed to my style.
Dark days helped to form my leadership because it forced me away from solitude and back to people. You can’t lead or serve anyone in darkness. The dark places were no fun. It’s so important to surround yourself with good, positive people who can engage with you and you with them.
I would like a copy, sounds like a great book.
Dark days make you appreciate the light. Dark days form your leadership because driving the dark away points you back at what you value. Dark days are formative to your leadership.
The group New Radicals, once sang, ‘you get what you give’ and that seems to align with the post and comments today. At the same time it is a perceived risk to give and not anticipate/expect ROI, but sometimes that is what you need to do short term to have long term benefits.
Risking connections really does put you out there and without a net and without expectations of reciprocity is easier said than done.
While there are times for solitude, self-reflection and even sanctuary to heal oneself, reaching out and connecting can create an exponential force greater than the individuals. Those tapestries are strong and can weather the darkness…or as the Borg collective say, ‘resistance is futile.’ 😉
Out of darkness. I didn’t really grow as a leader or a person until I was willing to fully accept myself. That meant embracing my own darkness. It took awhile because I believed that if others saw my darkness they would be repulsed and leave. I was wrong. It is the embracing of our own and others’ darkness where our humanity emerges. We broaden our capacity to serve and in the serving including others in the journey of change and transformation. Our instinct is to run from the darkness, ignore the darkness, but it is the power that enables our beauty to fully form when we reach the light.
I have found the need to reinvent myself as a leader every few years or darkness settles in and it is difficult to overcome. Being in education, Professional Learning Communities foster collaboration while using data to attain goals. In one on our greatest but most difficult years of change, my private motto became, “Leap, and the net will appear.” It is the year I learned to trust the power of teams and trusting the process to work without knowing every outcome.
Darkness brought with it the realization that nothing changes if nothing changes. The place I had gravitated to I could not, by myself gravitate away from. I had to accept the life lines being thrown out to me. I had to admit my own vulnerability, insecurity. Had to admit that I did not hold all the answers. The facade was crumbling and very soon others would be able to see that I didn’t have it all together…what would they “think.” How would they react? What would my reputation be? What I found was that I was blessed with people who just wanted to “help.” People who wanted to be resourceful and compassionate. People who also wanted to hold me accountable for not staying in the dark and making excuses. The dark was a place that was painfully productive. A humbling experience which brought with it value lessons on when a leader needs to lead and when a leader needs to follow. It wasn’t always up to me to find the way. Sometimes it was up to me to follow the person who knew the way.
You are right absolutely what Jesus said… The greatest leader was first a servant. (paraphrased by me).
Empathy is one of the strongest character traits of a good leader. Those dark times of the leader is what gives meat to the empathy they express to those that follow and support.
Some seeds are germinated in darkness but are unable to grow & reach full potential until they are planted in the right soil & placed into the light. Seeds of greatness are the same.
It is in the darkness that we are stripped of our dependencies that falsely lead us to believe we’re doing alright. (ie ego beliefs)
It is in the darkness that we have an opportunity to learn who we really are and who those around us are (at the soul level).
It is in the darkness that possibilities for viewing the world differently and serving yourself and others better, exist.
Personal experience with this has been my greatest gift of learning to date.
Thanks, as always, Dan!
I think going through darkness grounds and humbles you, as well as teaches you to understand everyone else going through similar situations or maybe even not that similar. You just realize how many things there are that you have so little control over and that helps you understand others so much better. And understanding why people act one way or another is very important in leadership.
This post reminds me of Shining Eyes from The Art of Possibility; connection creates shining eyes and allows one to test their perception with others; not to mention growing/re-thiking when you are exposed to other perceptions!!
Another great post, thanks
Caring for the team members is absolutely necessary.
It’s all about we versus me even though the questions come from me and the answers come from we.
Shepherding all the members of your team is critical!
Great post!! I approach leadership in a way that I want my employees to have the tools they need to do their job, the knowledge that I have their back and am here to support them, and then I leave them to it. I love to see them succeed!! The one question I have is why it seems there are people out there that do not function well with this type of leadership. Whether it is their engrained thought processes, or just a choice I have had employees that, on one hand, took advantage of the freedom I seek to give them (whether with their schedule or with processes within the office), or they just couldn’t work without being babysat (i.e. having their work checked consistently. From my experience I wanted my supervisors to teach me what I needed to and then let me go do the job. I would always want to exceed their expectations. However I always kept my eye on the boundaries to make sure I did not overstep my position or their authority. I realize there are different personalities and I try to allow for that in my leadership style however, I can’t imagine not wanting to work within a structure that allows me to perform, grow, and succeed while having flexibility within that structure too.
Just came upon this site. Like the articles. Decided to sign up to receive daily emails. Hope I am selected to receive one of the twenty books
Dan – thanks again for a compelling read. The choice to isolate in the darkness can come from pride (i.e. stubbornness or anger, insecurity, or self pity). It’s that pride (the embarassment coming from whatever not being as successful as you would have liked) keeps you from connecting with others when you need them the most. So many similarities to earlier posts – Brene’ Brown on vulnerability to name one….. The very act of reaching out and connecting with others removes the fear – it allows others to see you as a person, and oftentimes enables another to have the courage to shed some light on a dark spot in their own lives, and perhaps emerge as a situational leader to come alongside you in the midst of yours. Just enough light for the step I’m on….. Thank you for giving me concepts to ponder.
Another great post. I can relate to the dark days as a school administrator. It seems like almost every decision makes one of our stakeholders unhappy. Ultimately when you do what is best for kids it is easy to justify a decision. Having an open dialogue and shining the light on why a decision was made goes a long way.
Walk in the path of light. Leading in the dark is lost leadership.
It’s in the darkness that everything peels away and you find out what really matters. In isolation, we’re often driven to look closely and re-evaluate our values and goals. As tough as those dark days are, they allow us to appreciate the sun.
You bring up a lot of great points. I’ve been in that situation where I’ve tried to lead but on my own. What does one do when you’re trying to lead an organization into a positive direction but no one wants to get on board? I’m talking when it’s the right decision but apathy and negativity are the “norm”. Thanks for your blog. Really enjoy it and your Twitter posts.
Great blog entry! They continue to stay at high levels that benefit anyone who reads. Sinek’s book def seems like a fun read
Thanks for the insight. I have a tendency to go it alone. I need to focus more on serving others
“It is in your self interest to forget about your self interest” quote by August Turak, This from Scott Eblin’s blog on Dec 20,2013 on “Why you should lead like a trappist monk”
Here is a link to this fascinating concept:
An odd topic yet quite interesting to learn on the new aspect of seeing things with optimism. Leaders need to think of others and work for them to succeed. Connecting to others then becomes the key to success.
My dark days have taught me to be wise, practical and remain courageous to fight for the justice. ‘Never compromise on your professional thinking and working’ at the cost of pleasing the bosses in a wrong way. Also, keep a good faith in the God and work on alternative plans to remain financially stable.
Really helpful post, especially today when I have to re-connect with the people around me.
Dark days have helped me realize there are also bright, sun shining days ahead.
Excellent post…I’ve been in a leadership position for over 30 years and I learn something everyday from your blog. Love the sound byte, do more of these…
Dark days formed my leadership when the world economy collapsed just as I was gaining the credentials to become a financial advisor. My kids were starting adolescence and all the challenges that come with that and I was raising them alone because their father–my husband–had passed away 6 years earlier. I started volunteering in my community and was quickly elevated into leadership roles. I have continued to cultivate my skills ever since. My experiences have been very dark, indeed, and have forged my strength to degrees I had never imagined were possible. I am irrepressible, indefatigable and unstoppable.
Augustine said: “Relationship is not the means to the goal, it is the goal.” So true.
I’ve done my best work as a leader when I have admitted that I didn’t have all the answers and needed my colleagues to work as a team to accomplish a goal. I remember answering the question, “What kind of people do you need for this team?” by saying “I need people that can work together” My answer was met with curiosity and skepticism because the person was expecting me to provide a laundry list of skills and knowledge that the person asking the question was expecting. During this time, I also had a boss that believed in me and had my back, which gave me the confidence to try new things knowing he wasn’t going to throw me under the bus. It was the best of times … working with a team that truly worked together, and having the confidence that my boss would provide a soft landing if something didn’t go well.
The African word “ubuntu” came to me while reading this post. Ubuntu is the profound sense that we are human only through the humanity of others. In other words, what we accomplish is only equal to the work and achievements of others. I believe that too often as leaders, we forget that our work and the work of our team affects each outcome.
Great blog post, if you would like be of the first in UK to hear Simon Sinek talk about his new topic ‘Why leaders eat last’, book for our 25 year conference in London on 7th Feb 2014, where he is the keynote speaker http://www.vistage25years.co.uk
Leaders start to embrace the dark when they should embrace the light. As Yoda says, “It’s quicker, easier, more seductive.”
Great thoughts being shared. It’s crazy how these words hit me right in stride as these were some things that I was dealing with. Learning to be a better leader by connecting instead of isolating myself.
I’ve found the Simon Sinek ‘start with why’ an amazing help with my personal development – would be awesome to get a free copy of his latest release!
Over the past year or so, I’ve been relying on Simon’s “Start with Why” concept as a basis for what we’re steering towards in my organization. I saw a video on 99U over the weekend where he used a wonderful example of a military fighter pilot and how the military code values people helping people towards a greater mission as the standard. As a former Navy submariner, that story resonated with me.
I currently lead a nationwide field group with 18 regional folks who all battle isolation every day. This post resonates with me – I talk to them all every day and hear their struggles with the isolation and coach them every time on how to fight that battle. It ain’t easy, that’s for sure!
“Leaders Eat Last” looks like a wonderful read and another “manual” to help those who aspire towards servant leadership to realize that not isolated in this reality..Avoiding isolation is all about connecting to others and Simon’s thoughts resonate.
Stay connected, all of you!
It’s such a hard thing to live out.
Many of the leaders I see seem to put caring for people second to accomplishing the mission.
As a Leader in my business, I experienced a dark time. That was when I grew the most as a leader because I learned that reaching out, being vulnerable, accepting support was my growth. I’m immensely grateful to my colleagues and for the strength it takes to push myself beyond the comfort of isolation.
In my darkest times I reached a level of introspection that I had never attained before. It took being isolated and alone to focus on my problem/issue and allowed me the meditation space to see what tools and resources I had around me to support moving on. And it was fellow human beings that helped me most.
Leadership is serving…always has been…so grateful that true leaders today are speaking out on this and more importantly, walking it out.
The light of truth (in this case ‘servant leadership’) always rids the darkness (‘those in places of leadership with no clue and subsequently no loyal followers/employees’).
Thanks for your work!
Giving up isolation often means learning to give up some control–a major challenge for many of us. Learning to count on others and delegate tasks that we would have otherwise done ourselves means trusting others and believing in their abilities. Little by little, we learn to put others needs to learn in front of our interests in perfection (read: our way), but doing so is so liberating. It opens a whole new world of possibilities that we never would have seen had we not expanded our network and walked away from the dark.
I would love to surprise my husband with this book. He is taking his comprehensive Examines this week at Regent University. 😀
I appreciated this nugget, “If leading is putting the interests of others above ourselves, you can lead now.” We can each lead from any position within our organization when this is our heart.
Our educational systems do not prepare you for developing people, puting their interest before your’s. I have been gradually becoming aware of the necesity for this type of leadership. It is a hard step becoming aware of this, you start to see why the leadership of some people you simply do not approve. After reading more about it, it makes sense. You follow the ones that cares for you. It is important to make the relfection upon your skills and tactics for leading teams. looking forward to read more about it and keep improving in this area.
Leading in the darkness, then out of the darkness, means first acknowledging that I am IN the darkness. To get to a leadership role, I have had to demonstrate independence, flexibility, stability, strength, and competence. These can be used to block or mask the true strengths of courage, compassion, and connection. And have left me sitting alone in the dark more than once. My task has been to recall that nothing important is done alone. Learning to light my own lamp, to reach out and link arms instead of blindly lurching into the darkness… those are the real skills of leadership.
Lovely piece for upcoming managers like myself here in Africa
An ancient king once said, “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” Leaning on someone stronger and outside of yourself is often the only way out. Why not choose the creator of the darkness and light to trust? For a really insightful read along these lines check out, “The Insanity of God” by Nik Ripken. http://www.nikripken.com/book/
Servant leadership is where it is at.
this past year I was going through some “dark days” of leadership. However, these days were much better because of the friends and family that I was able to turn to for advice and support. They helped me air out my issues and think about solutions to my problems. I continue to lean on others as I try and serve those I lead.
Dark days have taught me that isolation is not the key to leadership. You need to reach out and connect with others.
Good stuff!! As the late, great Stephen Covey said, “seek first to understand, then to be understood.”
Hopefully, your new book will shine light where it’s needed: understanding why my team of educators isn’t pulling together, and what can be done to turn the team around…Thanks!
That is really great stuff. I loved Sinek’s Start With Why. I will definitely add this to my must read list.
I would love to receive a copy of Mr. Sinek’s book. He writes: “Great leaders sacrifice their own comfort for the good of those in their care.” My reports will come to my office saying, “Sorry to interrupt, but…” I reassure them that my work *is* the interruptions that allow me to respond to their needs. Looks like a great read.
This post reminds me of a Colin Powell quote, “The day the soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help them or concluded that you do not care. Either case is a failure of leadership.”
Helping others by taking on their problems, isn’t helping others solve their problems. In my experience, the latter garners more connections and thank-yous than the former. I hope I can always find helping others worth my precious time.
I loved Simon Sinek’s “How great leaders inspire action”!
There’s always light at the end of every dark tunnel.
Leadership is definitely the caring for the people to the left and the right. “People do not care how much you know, until they know you care.”
Darkness forces me to reevaluate myself and identify what I have done wrong. It is in darkness that I have found my limits and the self confidence to stay the course of the road less traveled.
I have much to learn but I know I can survive the next dark period.
I really enjoy Simon’s stuff, and likewise the truths you’ve pulled from his thoughts and expanded on. My one word for this year happens to be “connect” and seeing it described here as “the essential act of leadership” is inspiring.
In what ways do you (anyone) try to connect with those who choose to follow you? What have you found to work best?
Thanks for the reading, Dave!
Love the title. A lot can be gleaned from just that title alone.
Love Simon’s books and can’t wait to read this one!
Too many organizations seem to be suffering from a leadership crisis today. It is time for people to pull together, realize “we are all in this together,” and try something new. Some employees may step up to assist in leadership, while others transform into leaders themselves or become inspired by those stepping up to lead. The darkness need not last forever.
Dark times have definitely made me more compassionate and less opinionated.
A few years ago, while serving as president of a small private company, I hit a wall too. A friend referred me to an executive coach. With her help, and the support of friends and close family, I found my way again and rediscovered joy. One of the most powerful stories that I had been telling myself was that I should have been strong enough to do this without help. Once I saw the fallacy of this story and began sharing my story with others, I was on the path to a healthier place.
My team quickly noticed the difference, and many commented on how happy they were to see me having fun again. The mood of our small company brightened and our performance as a team got better.
I’m so glad I took the risk to be vulnerable, connect with others, and get help.
I burned the boats and gave all to a dream I had for a non-profit. It was a non-profit- I lost everything… but it was the best thing I ever did. I learned so many things, (or gained so much wisdom) that money just can’t buy. Now, a few years later, I feel so blessed by the fact that I tried, and despite the losses, can’t imagine wimping out.
Thanks Randy. I’d love to learn some of the things you learned.
To first of all ensure the interest of people on your right, left, infront or behind you is my strong belief. That will create a climate of 1+1=3
I believe myself as a leader need to lead by example and to create an environment and mindset to always ensure interest of others.
Great blog, thank you. Leadership can be a very lonely place. Experiencing a similar experience that Simon is referring to and empowering to learn how other handle the situation. Thank you
Love Sinek’s message from his book “What’s The Why”. The guy is a writing powerhouse, can’t wait to read this book.
A mind grows by what it feeds on. Post like this leads to a continuous growth within and without.
I’m constantly learning and reading about leadership. This book would add another tool in my belt to help me become a better leader.
Negative and difficult experience in my life have helped me become a better leader because I’m more able to use those experiences and empathize when other people are struggling. I’m more willing to let people take time off or push back some of their tasks if they’re struggling with the loss of a loved one or a new health diagnosis. I’m more willing to reach out to new employees and team members because I remember what it was like to be new, lost, confused, and alone. I’m more focused on the impact of the words I choose because poor leaders have previously said hurtful things to me. Difficult situations have also meant that I lead through challenging times by focusing on intangible parts of the team – like finding personal meaning or rewards, having enjoyable work that is challenging but manageable, and feeling connected and accepted. Leading through COVID-19 has meant these skills are even more necessary.