It's been a crazy couple weeks, and the last couple days have packed quite a punch. I've been thinking about leadership and spiritually deep subjects from time to time, but not as much as I had been lately. I've been so busy that by the time I get home and *ahem* have time to think, I'm too tired. All I can think is: food, something-to-dull-my-brain-from-thinking-about-work (tv/movie), read, and sleep. Sometimes that doesn't work, and I don't sleep enough and thus, have a rough day the next day. Today was especially tough. So, I came home more exhausted than ever, and ate some junk and spent time watching a kids' movie to cheer me up (ironically, I watched Disney's UP). Then I got a tiny wind and decided to make a few notes about the things that have been on my mind: interactions and connections with others, and how they affect leadership.
This thought from my friend Mike (see my last post for more) is very true: "...don’t network just for the sake of 'building a huge number of connections.' Provide value, add to the conversation, help people without expecting anything in return." I don't necessarily agree with everything Mike said, but there was a lot of good in there. Too many people don't think about "connections" this way -- they just like the numbers. "I have X,000 friends on Facebook, myspace, Twitter, etc." It doesn't seem to matter how often they really connect with those people, or how sincere or impactful those connections are at any given point in time. The number is what matters most. Sometimes it's the only thing that does. And that can't be good - for anyone. And, it doesn't matter that you "get something" back. It's about doing, not getting. Don't just be there to be there. Do something. Make a difference - even if it's small. Our culture isn't inclined to think that way enough, if at all.
Then today, I had some negative interactions. Most of them originated from others. The ones that came from me were (mostly) in response to those that were directed at/to me. I am fairly confident that these folks did not intend to act negatively toward me; but they did. They caused a busy day to become more stressful, to overload my already slow mind, to cause me some emotional upheaval. Now, I will take ownership of my reactions. I know that I am a very emotional person, even for a girl; always have been. It is something I strive to keep in check every day.
However, when stressers and such interfere with whatever it is I am trying to accomplish/think about/do, I lose some of the control over my emotional reins because I have to divert that energy into roping in that other situation. Somehow, someday, I hope to overcome this problem better than I have thus far, and to be able to keep those emotions in check more easily, and let them out only when necessary. [I feel the need to note that I truly believe God has created me in a way that causes me to have emotions that are more affected by outside situations/people/stimuli than most other people. When I see someone hurting, I often hurt with them, and don't always understand why. When I feel like I haven't done my best, or have let someone down, I have an emotional response. It isn't very pleasant. (Yes, some of that is a self-esteem problem, we'll tackle that another day.) Often, this helps me sympathize with people in a way others may not be able to do. Other times, it causes issues with my emotional stability.] But when my emotions "act up" there isn't much I can do to hold them in check, hard as I try. This can mean I'm exceedingly giddy and happy, or very depressed and feeling useless and unwanted. How can leaders be missing what needs to be watched for, so that people who follow them (those who are like me, and those who are not) do not end up in these jumbled, crazy states of mind?
Leaders must always be aware of the impact their interactions have on those they lead. That means the interactions you have face-to-face, email-to-email, voicemail-to-voicemail, or even through another person. The impact of interactions (and the importance of awareness) is often lost when you lose the face-to-face. I believe it is even harder when it is through that third party person. There is still human interaction going on (and not through a technology medium) but it is just as severely disconnected for the leader (maybe even more so), and can often result in reactions by the follower and the "go-between" that can be extremely unpleasant for both. Thus, it is vitally important to be aware of the impact you are having through any interaction - personal or impersonal - with a follower. I realize this sounds like a big obligation, and it is. Leadership is an immense responsibility that should not be taken lightly. But it is also a great blessing if done properly - for both the leader and the follower(s).
The way you interact (or don't interact) with others is extremely important - whether you're a leader or not. It says a ton about who you are, how you work, how you think, what's important to you, who's important to you. It affects the way the people around you feel about many things - the situation, the environment you're in, you, even themselves. People who understand the importance of interactions and the tenor of them are often people in leadership (not always, mind you, but often). Think about it; how do you interact throughout each day?