Ep 99: Leading in the Face of Humanity
Humanity often shows up in challenging times, when fear and uncertainty is happening. The COVID-19 pandemic has greatly shown this, and as leaders, you need to have the humanity to lead with an open heart and do so more powerfully. How then can you start doing that? Adam Quiney tells you the answers in this episode. He breaks down the two common ways people avoid being with their humanity and how it affects their leadership and personal relationships. He then shares what to do and what not to do in order to lead more with care, now more than ever.
Listen to the Episode Here:
Leading In The Face Of Humanity
In this episode, we’re going to be talking about leading in the face of humanity. A little bit of a roadmap here. First, the unknown evokes a great deal of fear and possibility. Forging forward into this space, you can expect a lot of people’s humanity, including your own, to show up. We’ll talk a little bit about that. We’re going to talk about what it looks like to have your humanity present. We’ll talk about what not to do, and then we’ll talk about how to work and lead in the face of this with your humanity present with other’s humanity present.
First of all, you’ve probably noticed that this COVID-19 thing that we’re all going through has kicked up a great deal of energy. You’ve probably noticed that that energy has evoked a lot. It’s evoked our fears, excitement, connection, love, hate, and all of this stuff. That’s our humanity. That’s our collective humanity on display. Our humanity is the part of ourselves that isn’t flawless and perfect. Our humanity is what shows up in the face of fear, joy, arousal, and all of these sorts of things.
In episode 97, we talked about the mutual inclusivity of fear and possibility and how anytime there’s a possibility available, there’s also fear. What we’re talking about is what tends to happen and show up when we step into that place. Our humanity is what it looks like when we’re experiencing something and our reaction to that experience. One of the things that were on display during the initial rise of COVID-19 were people in Florida insisting they were going to keep partying for their spring break, even though there was a viral outbreak happening.
This is an example of someone’s humanity. It’s their fallibility as a human. The reaction you had to the choice those people made is part of your humanity, so too is mine. No pedestal here. I want to be clear about that. A leader needs to be able to stand powerfully with their own humanity and that of others in order to lead. If you cannot do this, you will simply be unable to provide anything. You’ll be swept into the current along with everyone else or you’ll be unable to hold an open heart, which is what allows people to hear your voice.
Some leaders try to operate without acknowledging any of their humanity. It’s like a magnificent statue trying to give you advice. You’re like, “Easy for you to say you’re perfect and flawless, but unlike me.” Whereas leading someone from your humanity first gives them permission to have their humanity. Why is this a challenge? The challenge is that before we can be with anyone else’s humanity, we need to be able to be with our own, and we tend to avoid doing so. Sure, there are parts of you that you’re totally willing to be with and to have on display.
In those areas, in those things that pick up those parts of you that you’re willing to be with, you’re great at being with people in their humanity. For example, you have a lot of facility with your joy and your sadness. Great. You’re reliable as a leader when people are experiencing joy and sadness. It’s just that those aren’t the only places where leadership is tested. You’ve got this wedge of the pie where you have the facility as a leader and in the absence of having this distinguished, you’re going to have a natural pull to bring people into that place, so you can then do your work with them.
The parts of your humanity that you would rather not even look at and quite likely are situated in your blind spots that are the work of leadership. Those represent the edges. Pointing to where you’re already good usually is a measure of you feeling under-acknowledged or you might not be good enough or anything like that. Check on that if that’s showing up for you. We have a ton of ways to avoid being with our own humanity. The most common ones are collapsing and bypassing.
These are broad brush stroke approaches to not having to be with our humanity. Collapsing is the act of making our experience and our humanity overly significant and getting hooked into it. We sit and ruminate on our thoughts. We consume copious quantities of media, especially the news which is ultimately perpetuated via our fear and you take actions that are a result of a reaction to that fear. For example, buying all the toilet paper on the planet.
This is that part of you that keeps scratching that scab, so it can never heal. That’s what collapsing into our humanity is. That stops us from being able to lead with our humanity because we are consumed by it. Bypassing is the other side. It is the act of refusing to accept the experience we are having and consequently step right over it. We might abuse substances. We might numb ourselves by eating, watching TV, working hard, and going to the gym. When you get masterful at this approach and bypassing, you reach the point where you are not even able to feel where you are feeling it.
That ultimately leaves you helpless to do anything about it or with it. These are the leaders that say, “I’m not afraid of anything.” There are two ways to end up not being afraid of anything. One is to play an incredibly small game inside of what’s already your comfort zone. The other one is to have bypassed your fear so much to step past it to such an extent that you can’t feel what you are feeling. You’re not even present to your fear when it’s there. People that insist they have no fear and would never quit something, etc. are people that have reached this level of mastery.
Their claims of having no fear are true in their own lived-in experience as much as they’ve lost the capacity to feel it, but fear, they have all the same. To step into leadership, you have to develop the muscle to feel what you are feeling because while you may not be able to feel your fear, everyone else can. That creates a dissonance when a leader is claiming, “I’m not afraid,” and yet, people are feeling and present to their fear, it has people be like, “I’m not sure where I stand on this. I’m not sure who I need to be.” You end up creating what you’re going to create.
Why does this matter? With your teams, neither of these approaches. Neither collapsing nor bypassing allows the leader to be with what there is for them to be with. Another way to word this is that if you’re feeling afraid, the thing to do is to feel afraid. If we can’t let ourselves be afraid, then we’re left a victim to it. As it said, what we resist, persists. What cannot be experienced and expressed can’t be moved. Consequently, it just sits with us. It’s also true that when a leader is unable to acknowledge, distinguish, and honor what is there for them, they’re unable to do the same for their teams.
Instead, that leader will attempt to have their teams operate the same way they do with their own humanity, which is to say, if I’m that leader and if what I do is bypass my fear, then I’ll attempt to have you do that. If the leader tries to bypass and operate overtop of their fear, they’ll attempt to do the same with their team members. Helping their team members get over it quickly, move on past it, talk about it, and do whatever is necessary, but it’s got to be a short conversation because we’ve got things to do.
That leader will also remove people from their teams that don’t have the same way of showing up in the face of their fear or whatever part of their humanity we’re talking about. We see this a lot where leaders create teams that look a lot like them. That’s because they are not addressing this deficiency in their leadership. The deficiency I’m talking about is that the hallmark of a leader is the ability to develop the leadership of others. As soon as you’re only able to operate inside this slice of the pie, that’s one wedge.
As soon as you’re not able to be with the humanity of people where they deal with it differently than you do, you’ve now X-ed out. You’ve crossed out a whole wealth of people for which you are not able to develop their leadership. Some leaders will say, “I don’t care,” and that’s fine. That’s their choice. The point here is that there are many points that we can make. One point is it’s not about comparison, but if you were comparing yourself or up for being hired or at the end of the day, how did I do as a leader?
The leader that can develop and draw forward and call for leadership in everyone rather than an exclusive set of people, that’s the leader who will have the biggest impact. If you’re reading this, you’re probably here to make a big impact in the world. Let’s talk about this on a personal level. On the personal level, any kink in your ability to experience what is real for you moment-to-moment is a kink in your overall experience of life.
What I mean is if you cannot experience your own sadness, that is going to show up in your overall experience of life. You are not a set of plumbing pipes with the ability to turn off and on different parts of yourself while having a rich experience in other areas. The more you stifle your experience, the more that stifles your overall experience of life. One of the things that often happens, especially because of my background and my traits, my survival mechanisms, and the strategies I learned in life to get by, I then have a lot of people come to me where they’ve created great results.
They’ve got good cars, money, and jobs. Everything looks nice and yet, their underlying experience of life is one of low-grade continual frustration and disappointment. There’s this feeling of something to be missing. This lack of fulfillment and this lack of joy. Almost inevitably, when people are experiencing a lack of joy in their life, it’s usually not because they’re not doing enough fun things. That’s what we try to do. We try to ladle joy on top of this issue. “I’ll go learn square dancing.” That’s weird that I thought of that. That’s definitely not my definition of joy.
Nevertheless, “I’ll go on a cruise.” “I’ll go flying somewhere.” “I’ll do bungee jumping,” or whatever it is for you. We try to ladle more joy on top of that. It’s almost never that issue. It’s usually because they’re unwilling to experience and express and feel their anger, sadness, and emotions that we’ve got a disempowered relationship with. Ultimately, the reason you might take this on in your own life is so that you can have an experience of the fullness of what it is to be a human. It’s a little scary because we get worried about feeling sad. What if this never goes away?
We get worried about anger. What if I harm someone? We have to work to be responsible for this. It doesn’t mean we belch hot fire into someone’s face, but that is the work of stepping into leadership. What do you do about this? How can you address this? There’s a couple of things. One, you can notice the emotions and aspects of humanity that you don’t seem to have much of in your life. What seems missing?
If we talked about anger, sadness, joy, happiness, fear, franticity, anxiety, and flatlining, are there any there that feels less present for me than the others? “I often feel less of this.” That might be a good place to learn, to notice that. You can also look at what do you judge other people for? See if that means if you judge other people for being too joyful, maybe you’ll notice that there seems to be a bit of a diminished experience of joy. If you have a lot of judgment about people that are angry, how much anger do you allow yourself to experience?
Whatever you insist, you don’t experience. Maybe you’ve got this relationship with stress or overwhelm or victimhood or anger, or sadness. All of this is our humanity. Whatever it is you insist you don’t experience is probably a place where you’ve kinked yourself. Whatever it is that you don’t seem to have in your life, consider that this is a place where you are not able to be with your own humanity and consequently not able to be with other people’s humanity.
If you aren’t willing to let yourself be angry or to even feel your anger, it’s unlikely you’re going to be willing to let other people feel theirs or for you to feel their anger. Go and discover the places where that humanity exists in you. To be clear, this requires a bit of ontological effort on your part. Meaning, you have to be committed to seeing this. If you’ve been hiding your anger and you’ve been shoving it down, you’re not just going to go out and bump into it.
If you’re like, “Good intention. I’m going to see if I see my anger.” You probably won’t. Why would you? Your ego has been invested for quite some time and with quite a good deal of effort in hiding this from you. If you want to see this stuff, you need to make an effort and you need to create some structures to keep it in the foreground for you. You can set regular alerts on your phone that says, “When was the last time you noticed X?” Where X is whatever your humanity is.
You can keep a notebook with you and track the number of times you catch yourself showing up in whatever part of your humanity you’ve identified. You can ask your friends, relatives, and loved ones to point out to you. “I’m trying to track this part of my humanity that I don’t know that I see. Can you let me know when it’s there?” It can be a challenge to catch this stuff. It requires diligence on your part. Finally, if the approach you take is more to collapse into your humanity.
You notice you have a little amount of anger and a tremendous amount of sadness. It might be a place where you’re bypassing your anger and collapsing into your sadness. You may take on noticing the habits that you have that keep you in that loop. For example, watching the news over and over again, eating, hating yourself for what you’re eating, eating more, or whatever it happens to be. Notice the ways that you keep picking out that scab, so to speak.
That’s the work of creating something different. It’s noticing the cycle. So much of our life is dictated by the cycles that we’ve created. The beautiful thing about a cycle is all you need to do to get out of it is not take the next step. The irony is that’s all we can do. We can’t stop ourselves. The first trick is to simply notice the cycle. If you can notice the cycle, you’re doing something different because part of the way a cycle works is that we don’t see it happening. We blindly walk through it, thinking that we’re doing things differently.
See if you can notice those tendencies of yours that tend to feed these parts of your humanity that you collapse in and practice setting those down. That’s everything we’ve got for you. Next episode, we’re going to be talking about working with the breakdown. When you have breakdowns and come into the breakdown, what do you do? How do you show up and lead in the face of that? That’ll be for you in the next episode. I hope you enjoyed this episode.
Episode 97 – The Mutual Inclusivity of Fear and Possibility episode