Being a leader means making choices that empower you. This doesn’t mean you avoid doing the things you don’t want to do — it means you choose how you’re going to be as you do them, in such a way you are empowered around that decision.
Being a leader means choosing to empower what is in front of you, even when there isn’t a choice.
For example, let’s say I hand you a bowl of chocolate ice cream. You can do any number of things with this. You can complain about the calories and eat it anyway. You can be disappointed by the ice cream, wishing it were a different flavour.
You can feel slighted by the fact I gave someone else a choice between vanilla and chocolate, while I didn’t give you that same choice. You can cross your arms and silently resent me because this is the same flavour of ice cream I’ve given you the last three weeks, and I should know by now you don’t like it.
Or, you can relate to this situation as a leader would. You can choose gratitude in the moment and be thankful for free ice cream, even if you don’t decide to eat it. You can acknowledge the additional calories and decide this is just more motivation for the gym later on this evening.
You can come to me and let me know you really don’t like chocolate as a flavour (presumably because there’s something wrong with your taste buds) and ask if there are any other choices, and, when I tell you there aren’t, you can choose to empower that as well, and do something else with the ice cream (maybe you give it to a homeless person).
The leader’s life is chosen, moment to moment, even and especially when there isn’t a choice available. What I mean by this is we don’t always get to choose the hand we are dealt, but we always get a choice about how we relate to that hand. Life can be a big, beautiful game, or it can be a tedious slog to survive — the only difference is how you are choosing to relate to it.
As a result of all of this, being a leader means taking on all areas of your life and creating a life that is truly rich. This doesn’t mean you don’t feel unhappiness, sadness, anger, grief or any of the other emotions we tend to flee from or numb out in modern society.
In fact, if you are truly developing yourself as a leader, you will feel all of these states, along with the more pleasurable ones, to a greater extent than you did before you began this work.
The act of developing yourself as a leader is one of expanding and opening your heart. Doing so means you will necessarily feel more than you have prior.
Consequently, leadership isn’t safe — it’s the opposite. The more you expand as a leader, the more you develop an ability to let the world impact you, and stay open while it does so.
Contrast this with what people more commonly do, which is to coat themselves in Teflon and get through life without letting it impact them. This isn’t leadership. It’s protection and safety. In preventing the world from impacting you, you shut off your ability to impact the world.