Wholeness & Leadership

“I do not want to be complicit in wiping myself out, and denying myself as a whole, broken-hearted, messy, human being.”

– Jerry Colonna

Our friend Parker Palmer writes that “Wholeness does not mean perfection; it means embracing brokenness as an integral part of life.” Embracing our humanity–the fact that we’re human, not perfect automatons–is a liberating realization for our hearts. Doing so consciously allows us perhaps, for once, to be fully ourselves–shamelessly.

Showing up in our fullness means embracing all that’s in our lives, what’s happened to us, what’s happening that we’d rather ignore. It means embracing all the parts of us with a sense of compassion and becoming an adult with all our feelings and complexes and wounds from past baggage sorted out. It means we have to slow down a bit to let it all in, include messy parts we’ve kept tucked away, examine our habits and how we live our lives, and decide what kind of adult we want to be. It means we have to trust the process to understanding ourselves fully so that we can transform our lives into authentic expressions of who we really are, all of who we really are. In doing so, we abandon our attempts to fit our very intricate self into preformatted containers offered by the world with an externally defined perfection of which would level us–deaden us some–in the pursuit.

“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” – Howard Thurman

Lately, I’ve been bringing clients into a different arena for coaching sessions. We spend our time together accompanied by my horse in a dirt coral with a beautiful view of the continental divide, a pair of eagles nesting nearby, and hawks, coyotes and other ground critters occasionally coming to visit. Each session has its own lesson plan, and yet there’s a key element that seems to happen each time: Clients get a sense of who they really are, and their innate way of being, without the personas, the coping mechanisms, defenses, fears. For sure, all of these things show up in the arena with them, but something else does, too. That something else shows up profoundly in ways that the world doesn’t always get to see clearly, or that we keep hidden (safe) as we fight and traipse our way through our days, years, lives.

When clients touch in on that, articulate that for themselves, or feel that light up in the neural networks their bodies again, it usually brings a tender moment and perhaps some tears of recognition. One client asked, “Why is it so hard to be this way in the world? Why does it feel so risky to be me?”

“Why does it feel so risky to be me?”- that question reverberates in me. Our early experiences cause us to put the damper on our brightest self. Sometimes I liken the image of us surviving our childhood with our precious self intact to a quarterback running down the field protecting the ball, trying not to be sacked by the defense. Many times, in our present, we’re still crouched around the ball so that no one takes it (us) away from us. The imprints from our past linger so strongly, and if left unchecked, will rule and run our present such that we never feel safe enough to relax and let our self feel that free.

“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”- Anais Nin

Embracing our wholeness means looking closely and compassionately at all of the parts and pieces of ourselves–the wounds, and all that survived–and finding the beauty in what may feel like a broken inner world. And it means being real about that big art project of wholeness that we are and bring with us in our work, families, friendships, partnerships–and the deepest relationship we have, the one with ourselves and our own inner landscape. Somewhere in that process, may we find love again and choose to move from that place rather than fear which keeps us contracted, protecting the precious ball of our self from the world.

Here at Reboot, we often say t that “Better Humans Make Better Leaders.” Better humans also make for better mothers, fathers, partners, friends, neighbors, and policymakers. Earlier this month, Jerry joined Reboot coach and facilitator Tarikh Korula on the most recent episode of The Interdependence Project’s podcast where they tackle the question: How human can we be as leaders? We’ve decided this would be a great episode to share with you for the holidays, as we wrap up one year and set out into the fresh tracks of another new season.

As humans, they pose these questions: Can you look at yourself in the mirror? Do you have the guts to call yourself on your own bullsh*t? How can you foster your resiliency? Are you willing to confront the demons that lie at the heart of the human experience? How are you complicit in creating what you say you don’t want? How can you bring more compassion to yourself?

As leaders, what might happen if we attempted to lead from a place of honesty, equanimity, and compassion? How might we transform our organizations and workplaces into safe oases where our fullest selves emerge, allowing ourselves to step into purpose and the meaningful work of our lives–and allow those who work for us to do the same?