You do not need a position of authority to be a leader.
You are leading all the time, with what you say or don’t say, your actions and inaction, and even your body language. Everyday you are having an impact, and influencing people’s lives for better or for worse.
I realised this when my daughter was born nearly four years ago. I was diagnosed with postnatal depression, which kickstarted a period of personal transformation, and hardship.
I had surgery for appendicitis, which led to an infection, I got divorced, struggled financially, and my daughters mother had to deal with inflammatory breast cancer.
The question of how I would respond to these challenges seemed to occur daily. I needed to embrace my personal leadership skills and take control of the impact I was having on the world.
As a result I developed Keyhole Leadership, a leadership model based on three key pillars.
1. Curiosity: Looking Through The Keyhole
A great starting point is Stoic Philosophy, and the quote often attributed to Plato.
“I am the wisest man alive, for I know one thing, and that is that I know nothing.”
As an educator I promote the idea of being lifelong learners, especially in a world that is changing frantically with technological and social developments.
Managing our ego and arrogance are key for modern day leaders.
The name Keyhole Leadership is inspired by a quote from the Marvel film Dr Strange.
“You are a man looking at the universe through a keyhole”
All too often we can assume everyone is living in the same reality as us. That the world they perceive is the same as ours, when in fact nothing can be further from the truth.
Not only do our senses register the world around us slightly differently to one another, but we can only comprehend elements of the light waves and sound frequencies that are possible.
Asking questions to key stakeholders, customers, family members, is a great way to increase your knowledge, even if you are afraid of the answers.
2. Courage: Unlock The Call To Adventure
I have been fascinated by storytelling since I was seven years old, when I first saw Star Wars. At university I realised the allure of many films was the narrative structure called The Hero’s Journey.
Joseph Campbell wrote The Hero With A Thousand Faces, and realised that stories all over the planet, with civilisations and tribes that had never met each other, all used a similar template with similar archetypes.
It is a template we can use to guide us through our lives.
We start in the ordinary world. Our comfort zone. We get a call to adventure to do or try something new. We refuse that call, because it is scary. It might not be dangerous, or fighting a dragon, but it could be a new relationship, a job application, or embracing a new technology.
We like doing what we have always done, because we stayed alive.
Thankfully we have mentors, who give us a gift. Sadly it probably won’t be a lightsaber or wand, but could be advice, a lift, financial help.
We gather our allies and cross the threshold, where we overcome minor obstacles until we eventually reach the metaphorical dragon and the cave where the thing we desire lies.
We then return to our community and share what we have learned and the treasure we won.
We are all heroes, answering and refusing the call to adventure. We are also an ally to someone, a villain to another, and more often than we might think, a mentor too.
No matter what role we are playing, they are all having influence and are all leading.
But first you need to answer that call to adventure.
3. Compassion: For Yourself, Others, and The Planet
I wonder if we all have an epiphany moment when we suddenly value compassion so much that we can put aside our ego and selfish desires. For me it was my daughter being born and realising we were all innocent, and kind, and happy, at some point.
We loved how we looked, we laughed and loved to learn. Children smile 400 times a day, adults are down to around 20.
The rest is programming. Perhaps it was an adverse childhood experience, a flawed educational system, or the all invasive influence of the media trying to profit from our unhappiness.
The point is a simple one. If someone is annoying you, it is because their life has led them to that point. Of course you are entitled to remove people from your life, but as Tupac is attributed as saying, “just because you don’t want them at your table, doesn’t mean you don’t want them to eat.”
The Apollo 8 astronauts felt that compassion as they orbited the moon. They even turned the camera around to show the inhabitants of our planet just how small and fragile the earth is, as it appears to hang like a marble in the vastness of space.
We are all family. All brothers and sisters.
In many ways leadership is love. Have the courage to embrace it, the curiosity to find out about others, and the compassion to care.
What would your life look like if you embraced these three pillars of leadership?