The concept of taking leadership responsibility is not that difficult to wrap yourself around when that responsibility naturally goes along with the territory. Like when you are a parent, you know you are responsible for your children and their needs. Or when you manage a department in a company, you know you’re in charge of all the work getting done. But there are lots of circumstances when the responsibility lines are not so finely drawn; when how we approach what is happening can make a difference to how things turn out. The essence of leadership for me is finding ways to have the world be a better place. Figuring out how to lead in ordinary moments has always fascinated me. I wonder what opportunities they present and how we can approach them.
I just got off the phone with a client of mine. She’s going through a tough time. She is the owner of a small business. She is dissatisfied with her life. She is someone who loves work and purpose. As a result she works long hours. But she tells me she’s a shell, empty, soulless. These are her own adjectives to describe herself. But they are descriptions I hear over and over again from women and men that I work with. As a matter of fact, I hear it from friends, as well as from strangers at the grocery store. Hmm? More and more people are asking themselves, “Is what I’m doing enough?”? “Is this all there is?”? Hearing them gets me thinking. What’s the problem? Is there a pattern here? What is it? Do we want to change it? If so, how do we do that?
I am working with two colleagues on a Women’s Leadership Workbook. It is a wonderful and powerful experience. The process has me thinking a lot about my history and development as a woman and a leader.
I grew up in a small town in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania. When I was about eleven or twelve years old I decided I wanted to be a Candy Striper at the local hospital. I showed up for “work” in my pale green and white striped seersucker pinafore and white short sleeve blouse. My assignment was in Histology. The entire department was staffed with women technicians. I can remember them being kind and big sisterly to me.
I just got an email from a friend who lives in New Mexico. She is an amazing writer, full of rich description, rolling sentences and vivid imagery. Her essay was about many things – the magnificent land and sky permeating everything, the ancient Indian cultural tradition of direction, our bodies being grounded by and connected to the earth and its ever-changing flow.
It is not quite dawn and I am wide-awake. I’m bordering on being negative. You know what I mean – piling on all kinds of nasty self-talk that only results in falling into a deep, dark hole which will take hours, days or weeks to wrench myself out of. I would like to blame this happening to me on the full moon. Full moons do move the tides and they have always affected me. But if I were honest – and I want to be honest here – then I would admit that after everyone went to sleep last night I tore into a small package of Easter Peeps. I am not allowed to eat Easter Peeps because they cause me to go into an emotional tailspin. If I were not fighting for my sanity right now I might think this is the funniest thing I’ve ever heard. Problem is it is not the least bit funny. I have had trouble sleeping all night. My stomach is blotted. My mouth feels like it is lined with week-old fireplace ashes.
A friend of mine recently interjected when I was telling someone where I was from, “Oh, she’s from the town where old Mafioso are put out to pasture”. I burst out laughing. This was certainly one way to characterize the small town in the mountains of eastern Pennsylvania where I grew up. In fact, as a small child my mother would whisper under her breathe – something she absolutely never did unless talking about the mafia – “That man over there’s the boss. Always be careful of him.” I never asked, “Careful of what?” I didn’t need to ask. I knew it meant he was dangerous, stay away from him. And I did. I never acknowledged him if I saw him at a wake or funeral, which is the main social event where you were likely to run into people you didn’t otherwise see around. Instead I’d avert my eyes so he wouldn’t notice me.
Several people have sent me responses to my blog via e-mail. They are not used to blogging and so they are gun-shy about signing up to post. I anticipated this so, feel free to just use your first name or even “anonymous”. An email address is required but it is not published and it just needs to be a valid email format (that means it could not even be your real email address and it would still work). I have received spam responses in the past and my CMS allows me to moderate posts, so I won’t approve spam, but if you have something to say and want to post as anonymous go for it.
Read what’s here and post your thoughts and responses. I want to hear them!
I have been listening to “Mantra: Sacred Words of Power” as I commute the twenty-five miles each way to my downtown Philadelphia office. I am so excited to be learning something new. After listening for a while I do emerge from the car feeling like I’m in an altered state. I am learning that this is because the mantras have a vibrational, energetic effect. They are not processed like our English language, which is steeped in words that mean particular things that are processed in our minds. Mantras are ancient Sanskrit sounds. According to Thomas Ashley-Ferrand sound represents the highest spiritual state we can achieve.
“My leadership coaching helps you identify who you are – both your strengths and vulnerabilities – and how to use them to go further than you ever thought possible in your career and life.”
Elizabeth C. Hechtman is passionate about people leading every aspect of their lives. For over 25 years she's collaborated with clients to be leaders in their families and relationships, at work, with friends, and with their finances, health and wellness.
Elizabeth's clients are c-suite professionals, entrepreneurs, middle managers, creative professionals, recent brides/grooms, stay-at-home parents, and singles. She lives in the Philadelphia suburbs.
She created this blog as a forum to disseminate the golden nuggets she learns everyday, bat around her views on leadership and and invite a rich dialogue about all of it.