The Rhythm of Living, The Rhythm of Leading
This rhythm lies in the open spaces. That is where flow happens, where growth happens, where life happens.
We are standing at her front door. I am saying goodbye to my friend who is waiting for back surgery.
She is leaning on the door pillar, trying to stand erect. The cool, winter breeze moves around her.
Our conversation was about cosmic 2x4s — you know, the experiences life throws at us when we are not paying attention to what is good for us.
The first cosmic 2x4 was the suicidal pain from a pinched nerve in my neck. The surgery to fix it did not slow me down one iota. I was not ready to learn what life was trying to teach me.
I was hit by a second cosmic 2x4 a few years ago when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. This one forced me to slow down and learn life’s lesson.
This friend had been with me through the cancer experience and saw the changes I finally made.
We chat about the routine of life and the rhythm of living.
Years ago, as part of a leadership degree, my friend wrote a paper about routine and rhythm.
The analogy that came to her was the Parthenon. The pillars are the routine, but the life, the rhythm, is the flow between the spaces.
This idea got me thinking about leadership.
As leaders, we provide the routine, the structure, the pillars, and when we share our compelling vision clearly, our teams can provide the rhythm in the spaces between these pillars.
If all we do is set the structure, setting our pillars close to one another, there is no room for our people to move, grow, and develop.
The poet Kahlil Gibran said it like this:
“Let there be spaces in your togetherness,
And let the winds of the heavens dance between you.
For the pillars of the temple stand apart,
And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.”
We need spaces. And specific, clear roles and responsibilities.
In my business, I had three managers plus me. Everyone had a clearly defined role — each acted as a pillar. The team we had built around the four of us was free to flow following the structure. They all had the right work to do, the work that suited them, and they got to choose their partners, their teammates.
Each department had a big picture — that was the pillar.
They knew what they stood for and what part of the business they were holding up. They had clear, collaborative goals. The details of how they would fulfil that big picture were with their people, their tactics, their goals. These details filled the space between the pillars.
Each department manager had knowledge and skills that were the pillars of their role. They coached that knowledge and skills to their team who created the rhythm of excellence.
For people to believe they have a future within an organization, we need to develop them, give them new learning opportunities, new responsibilities.
We need to stretch them so they either push us out of our roles or feel the absolute compulsion to be someone bigger somewhere else.
I had the trust, absolute implicit trust, that each of my managers would do the best they could in every circumstance. That trust created the space where ideas could flow, creating an ever-evolving rhythm of new ideas, new opportunities.
People behave differently when they know they are trusted. They take ownership of their work and they know it matters.
Imagine the Parthenon, your organization, in the future — the pillars, the people, the vision you built standing strong. The gentle breeze of the lives, the careers, the products and services that have blown in and out have created full, rich lives for all you have touched.
Stand erect, like my friend with the broken back. Know what you stand for and stand for it. Only then, can the flow of life breeze through the pillars of your vision.