What happens when a leader faces a personal crisis? This question was asked of me, as part of an interview with a CEO of a Corporation, on International Women’s Day, March 8 , 2021.
I am living this question right now, with a life threatening cancer diagnosis and treatment two years ago; a reoccurrence and further treatment one year ago; the death of my father one year ago ; and finally the devastating and untimely death of my Beloved husband on December 26 2020. It has been, and still is at times, more than I can hold and contain, leaving me feeling overwhelmed, fragile, and exhausted. So much loss and grief to process. The ALLOWING of the suffering that arises, to be with it, to name it, to give voice to it, to release it with my tears, to be held by loved ones, and to “let go” and surrender to Divine Love is healing. Then, much to my delight, a bubbling up of peace, wholeness, love , a quiet joy fills my broken open heart. This is my True Nature and Identity.
From this place of wholeness, comes a radical ACCEPTANCE of the challenging circumstances of my life , bringing them to my heart and to my most resourceful self. I am very grateful for my love of learning, my spiritual practice, yoga and the leadership path.
Life is precious, a mystery and fragile. Each precious sacred moment is a Choice point. Will I be a victim of my circumstances and react based on fear ? OR, Will I respond based on love as my True Higher Self. This guides me in making loving, life giving choices for myself and others. I choose life moment to moment! What will I do with this one precious moment?
Two ideas that are helping me choose life moment to moment are:
- “Lean in” coined by Sheryl Sandberg, meaning choosing to lean into challenges /opportunities . Right now I am leaning into my heart and soul with the bigger questions of life such as Who am I? How do I find meaning in my life ? What do I need to heal this grief and pain? What do I need in this moment – heart, body, mind and soul? Then finding the courage and boldness to disclose vulnerably my “Living in the Mystery” story and in other ways . What I give voice to heals.
- “Lean out” is my term for reaching out for help and support. When the going gets tough don’t go it alone. Because I am leaning into my needs, I am able to identify who and how they can support me. Learning to ask for specific help is a learning edge for me, as I lean into my life long old pattern of independence, self-reliance and high achievement. Then, learning to receive graciously with loving gratitude. I am learning what helps me in personal crisis and now, I am beginning to help others in small ways, hoping soon in larger ways, with their personal crises.
My greatest invitation to all of you is to do the deep dive of the inner work of being the leader of your life. I am reminded of Helen Reddy’s #1 song “ I am Woman” that headed the women’s movement in 1971. I was graduating from High School and starting University. It promised me a possibility of my life as a pioneer woman leader. Now 50 years later, this song still speaks to me of the promise of new life going forward. It is the chorus in particular that is speaking to me: “Oh yes, I am wise, but its wisdom born of pain. Yes, I have paid the price but look at what I’ve gained. If I have to, I can face anything. I am strong. I am invincible. I am woman.”
If you are interested in Helen Reddy’s story behind this song , check out the movie , “ I am Woman” about her challenging life as a woman musician and her wisdom expressed in her music.
One further resource , which correlates with my experience of leading myself through a devastating personal crisis is Hickman and Knouse (2020) When leaders face personal crisis: the human side of leadership. This book shares leading edge research on this topic, acknowledging it is a new area of leadership development and the need for more research.
As well, here are my two recent related blogs:
Bold & Visible Telling My Story
Linda & I have written extensively on the following related topics:
What helps you when you face a personal crisis? We would love to hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org
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