Genuine leadership is not about trying to imitate another leader or striving to fit into a certain box or definition. Genuine leadership is what emerges when we are fully and freely ourselves—when we are freaking out with joy. ~Betsy Myers
If someone titles a chapter in a book on leadership, “Freaking Out with Joy,” it’s going to get my attention, which is just what Betsy Myers did in her book Take the Lead. She begins this chapter with a story about her young daughter.
At a mere four years of age, Betsy’s daughter informed her mother that her 4-year-old social calendar was too full of various activities and she just wanted to come home from school and play, like a kid, for awhile. So Betsy and her daughter agreed that she would not participate in any activities until she was ready. At the ripe old age of six, her daughter attended a dance recital and fell in love. She wanted to sign-up for classes immediately. After signing up, Betsy took her daughter to purchase all of the various clothing and items needed for dance class. While in the dressing room trying on dance clothes, she turned to Betsy and with great enthusiasm proclaimed, “I am freaking out with joy.”
Betsy’s point is there’s a reason the academic world has had so much difficulty trying to define or determine the most effective leadership style. Effective leadership is not so much based on style, but it’s based on being real, being genuine, being who you are to the nth degree. This was true for Betsy’s daughter, who waited patiently to find the perfect fit that caused her to freak out with joy. Thinking back to my own childhood – when time seemed to pass by so very slowly – two childhood years would feel more like four to six adult years. I admire the patience of Betsy’s daughter to just wait, and “be,” and avoid cluttering her life with busyness which could have distracted her from finding what brought her so much fulfillment that it caused her to freak out with joy. What an amazingly wise 6-year-old!
Throughout my career, watching various people come and go from organizations, I’ve witnessed a number of people who, literally, counted the days until they could retire. Their work was just that, work. They missed the opportunity to find that perfect fit, their real and genuine self who would freak out with joy over the work they got to do every day.
There are leaders at all levels in an organization. They might be on the maintenance staff, a bus driver, or a CFO. What makes them leaders is not their title, it’s that they are being real, genuine, and coming to work freaking out with joy. Who wouldn’t want to follow someone like that?
Imagine for a moment an organization where people are real, genuine, being fully and freely themselves; the energy so invasive that it’s palpable. What if as leaders we spent more of our time removing barriers, obstacles, and hurdles that keep our employees from being real and genuine? What if that even meant helping employees transition to another organization where they could flourish and thrive? What if our focus shifted from employee satisfaction and retention to enabling all people to thrive?
If you’ve stayed with me this far you’re probably thinking I’m a bit Pollyannaish. But, why not reach for an organization full of the wisdom of a six-year-old who searched patiently for what caused her to freak out with joy?