Fuelling Your Leadership

Photo credit: Capt. Russell Tait

I knew a guy in my early flying days who got airborne in an aircraft he was uncertain had enough fuel to get him where he was going.  Not only was this a decidedly dodgy decision in the first place, but it was exacerbated by the fact that he needed to cross a lake to reach his destination….and more fuel.  He was uncertain enough to leave his fiancé behind at his point of departure and was reportedly retrieved from the middle of said lake by a fishing boat.  The aircraft was never found.
He had options.  He could have stayed put.  He could have owned up to the fact that he’d miscalculated and asked for help.  Yes, that may have felt embarrassing and required a fair amount of replanning, but it would probably have been less embarrassing than being retrieved from the middle of a lake (in my opinion).  Less expensive too.
It’s easy to judge.  It’s easy to point fingers and discuss what we would have done instead.  And yet, how many of us are continuing to “get airborne” every day at the moment, with grave doubts as to whether we have enough “fuel” to reach our destination?  How many of us are concerned not only about our own energy levels, but those of the people around us?  How many of us are watching our teammates sag around us, and endeavouring to power through so that we don’t let the side down?  Where will you be retrieving your teammates from when they run out of fuel?  Where will they retrieve you from? 
This week is Thanksgiving in the Western world.  It’s a tradition of sharing and of gratitude.  It’s a moment of regrouping to give thanks for the current bounty and for the blessings of the past year.  There is nothing that tires us more than trying to live somewhere other than the present moment.  The past is a murky place of could-of-should-of, and the future can’t be reeled in, no matter how hard you try!  The present moment passes us by continuously unless we focus on it and in it – and it is where not only our gratitude, but our refuelling comes from.
This year, above all others, could do with as many calculated moments of “pause and assess” as we can remember to take.  Not because we don’t want to move forward, but because we need to move forward well­.  We need to move forward in a different way from where we’ve come from, and with limited resources and energy because this year has been a tester.  It is exhausting to live in a cloud of fear, or resentment or loss – and yet this year has prompted just those things for many people and there’s no getting away without acknowledging that.
However, if we’re to responsibly manage our “fuel state”, and not make dodgy decisions for ourselves and those we affect moving forward, then we need to ensure we’re well enough fuelled for the journey ahead.  That journey not only entails closing off this year as epically as we can but priming ourselves to blow 2021 out the water.  There is no purer fuel I know than gratitude.
If you pause for a moment to consider it, how many reminders have you seen over the past number of months that nothing is guaranteed?  How many reminders that tomorrow is not promised, and nothing as certain as we once may have thought?  Each of these is a reminder to live fully in the moment, and to grasp what you DO have with both hands and a brave heart. 
If you’re feeling that exhausted pull I described of still mulling over what’s already come, or trying to predict what’s coming next, then taking a moment to consider what you have right here and now is the key to centring yourself and refuelling your energy levels.  Centring and refuelling is something worth making decent decisions and a concerted effort about – there are businesses and people who’ve not made it through this year much the same as there is an aircraft sitting at the bottom of a lake somewhere.
The fastest way I know to figure out what you have to be grateful for is to ask yourself this: “What if everything I wasn’t grateful for today wasn’t there when I woke up tomorrow morning?”
Self-leadership is about taking the time to consider that answer for yourself.  Often.  Leadership of team is about having that discussion with those you lead – creating a moment of pause for your family, or for your work colleagues, and asking them to volunteer the things they’re grateful for that they’d miss if they weren’t there when they woke up tomorrow morning…
Gratitude keeps us present.  It retrieves us from where we’ve anchored our energy in the past or the future and centres and refuels us for today.  Leadership means leading by example.

by Christen Killick

November 23rd, 2020

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