Creating Shadows

Over the last couple of months I have been spending time with some really interesting people on a new and exciting project. I have been speaking with them about the increased presence of humanitarian leadership and how I see a growing impact on those open to it.

Part of my focus has included learning more about resilience across the three areas of:

  • emotional;
  • physical; and
  • spiritual.

Graeme Cowan the author of several highly successful books including Back from the Brink, talks about the importance or personal resilience and how he found his journey was enhanced by shifting the focus from himself, back towards the helping of others. This gave him a reason to focus that was not present when it was all about him and he quickly learnt that,

"If I could master my mood I could master my life." 

The benefits of a healthy body are well known and Andrew May a leading contributor to the conversation on organisational resilience has documented how absenteeism rises and productivity levels fall when the culture of the workplace and individuals are in a state of constant stress and are not taking time to care for themselves.  Measures such as stopping and investing in our personal health by taking annual leave can improve your performance. Doing less can lead to more. 

A lady who I have written about several times and is a constant source of wisdom to me is Mae Thiew a Buddhist Monk living in the country side of Thailand. Spending time with her last week I sought to understand how she continues to do the work that she does in spite of the personal challenges she faces living with terminal cancer. What I heard from her resonated strongly with what I was hearing in my conversations with both Graeme and Andy. I asked her how she continued on each day suffering through the physical pain she endures and the mental anguish she was tormented by for many years losing the children she cared for to HIV. For her it was about focusing on the children, how she saw that they were mirrors of her pain and anguish. When she was sad, so too were the children. When she chose to grieve in private and celebrate life in front of the children, she saw them celebrate as well. Much to the same as Graeme's experience, doing something for others, improved their own health and mental wellbeing. 

As leaders we cast shadows and they are with us whenever we are in the light. They are there to be seen, even when we forget their presence or they trail behind us. It’s important that we take time to focus on our own personal resilience, investing in our own emotional, physical and spiritual resilience because the shadow we cast as leaders can speak louder than the words we choose. 

In August and September of this year across four locations of Brisbane, Sydney, Newcastle and Melbourne, I will be sharing my learnings and observations on leaders and the shadows they cast. Joining me will be a group of leaders casting their own shadows such as Alison Hill, Adam Voigt, Dan Gregory, Tricia Velthuizen, Gihan Perera, Lisa MCinnes-Smith plus several others. If you would like to join us details for The Future of Leadership series can be found here.