Sidekick. Wingman. Running buddy. BFF. Whatever you call that person to you, it’s one of the most important and intimate relationships we know. That one true friend who not only has our back, but who will tell it like it is to our face.
We want that one true friend close to us. We need their support and advice when we don’t know what to do next.
We need one clear voice to cut through the cacophony of self-interest parading as trusted advisors.
We need the compassionate honesty of one who sees and believes in our best self when we lose sight of who we are and who we can become.
And we need someone who will still be beside us when we fall short of those expectations, when we are far from our best self.
And we need to be that one true friend to them in return. When we are that one true friend to someone else, we can truly know how sincerely that person loves us in return.
The partnership between such true friends is the one relationship that will stand the test of time and endure the stresses and strains that life inevitably produces.
Having, and being a true friend assures that you can
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Just about any day of the year you will see or hear about some volunteer activity in your community. Many of the events that make our communities work are staffed mostly by volunteers. Last year, more than 62 million Americans turned out to volunteer at least one day. Most of those volunteered many days and hours to lend a hand in the cause of something that improved the quality of life for their community and its residents.
This episode of The Spirit of Leading features Kristi Leonard, who just completed her 2014-2015 term as president of the Junior League of Oklahoma City. I interview Kristi about her experiences leading an effective all women volunteer organization that supports her community through a variety of projects, all run entirely by volunteers.
Kristi shares her insights and experience as an example of how young women can develop their leadership abilities.
- Take advantage of opportunities to develop leadership talents through volunteering.
- The secret to engagement is to work on something that stirs your passions.
- The rewards of making a difference in your community.
- See and experience your community through different eyes and perspectives.
- Being a volunteer puts you in contact with smart, experienced, women and men who want to share their experiences.
- Take advantage of mentors who can become life-long confidants and advisors.
- Listening is one of the most important skills a leader can develop and sharpen.
- Engagement is a motivator. Get others involved in something they are passionate about and letting them do it is a better way to motivate than micromanaging.
- Get comfortable with being the leader standing in the front of the room.
- Let others use their talents and don’t micromanage.
- Experience the value of ongoing encouragement and recognition.
Kristi is a role model for young women wanting to become more involved as a leader at work and in their community. She also is a role model for young mothers who are balancing their family life and their desire to continue to develop all their potential in the workplace.
The Junior League has evolved into one of the most effective women’s volunteer organizations in the world since it was founded in 1901.
Today the Junior League makes its presence known through the efforts of more than 150,000 volunteers in 292 leagues in four countries.
Check out your nearest chapter of the Junior League.
Did you notice that not one Academy Award winner stood in front of the audience and gloated that they beat their competition? Not one.
Instead, they thanked all those who contributed to their preparation, performance, and ultimate success, especially their immediate families.
A collaborative effort
They talked about how important the collaboration was on the journey of making their film.
They thanked their fellow cast and crew who each played a role in the overall production.
They thanked the director for inspiring and INPowering leadership.
And they all talked about their connection to and belief in the vision of their film project as conveyed by its founders, or producers.
Have you ever sat at the end of the movie and watched the entire list of credits naming every single individual who had a part in the production? Everyone gets credited, including caterers, carpenters, painters, accountants, drivers, electricians, and on and on. It’s a reminder that all endeavors are cast and crew achievements. No one is merely a hireling; everyone is a contributor.
INPowering leaders follow the Academy Award model.
I noticed the following three components Academy Award efforts have in common.
1. A unifying vision.
The story begins in the mind of its creator who is able to articulate it in a form that others can imagine and add to.
2. A focused team.
The producer assembles a team of talented contributors from many theatrical disciplines who can take the vision and translate it into reality. The director is tasked with helping the cast give the best performance they have within them.
3. Organic collaboration.
Every production encounters complex challenges for which there are no prepackaged solutions. Cast and crew bring their expertise to the set and find creative approaches that sometimes prove to be the defining difference that make their project Academy Award caliber.
Stop and think about all those who contribute to your success. Think of all the resources we rely on that others have provided.
Giving credit to all those
who make it possible for us
to accomplish great performances
makes us even more
Every life counts, without exception. You probably haven’t heard of Charles Clark, a custodian at Trinity High School in Euless, TX. I only heard of him last week. But his story stopped me in my tracks.
Charles Clark says he is the most blessed man alive. He is an example of living the INPowered life: taking the initiative to make life better for yourself and others. His story explains it.
The links below give you two takes on the story. The first one is from CBS News correspondent Steve Hartman. The second is from Charles Clark’s perspective as posted on Huffington Post.
When you make a difference in the lives of others
the way Charles Clark does,
you also will be
How many times have you heard someone say, “I’ll forgive, but I won’t forget”? True; we can learn from it when someone wrongs us. Forgetting, however, is part of the forgiveness.
Indignation and retribution are easy; forgiveness is difficult.
Our natural inclination is to lash out against those who we think have wronged or cheated us. We want the wrong doers to get what’s coming to them. We want justice.
I’ve often wondered what the actual difference is between justice and revenge. My conclusion: justice is revenge codified and restrained. Justice seems more civilized, more rational, because it keeps us from going too far and unleashing our rage and wrath.
Instead, why don’t we rise to a higher level and just, “Fuhgeddaboudit”?
I believe forgiving is righteous because of the 3 R’s involved: Restraint, Reframing, and Reconciliation.
Restraint keeps us from making bad matters worse.
The inclination toward wrath and rage might make us feel better in the short run, but the retribution usually has collateral damage. In the end, the escalation spills over onto others who enlist in the cause of one side or the other. When we step back from the edge and lower our weapons–whether they be words, blades, bullets, or bombs–we can find the frame of mind to understand what is happening and why.
Reframing looks past the surface wrong and seeks to understand both the heat of the moment and heart of the matter.
Viewing the situation from all points of view leads to a deeper understanding of the real and imagined intentions of those involved. More often than not, we find those whom we swear intended us ill, had no such intention. Although they were acting according to their selfish interests, they were not specifically trying to harm us. Reframing is a time to learn, understand, and grow, and it leads directly to the third R.
Reconciliation is complete and absolute forgiveness because it brings the offending party back into full relationship.
Reconciliation calls upon our highest goodness to rebuild relationships instead of building higher walls. Reconciliation is the ultimate, “Fuhgeddaboudit,” and only the offended party can grant that.
If our best effort is to settle for justice, then we have to settle for something less than our best selves.
The INPowered leader shows the way to reconciliation–ultimate forgiveness.
This holiday season give the gift that keeps on giving back. Reach out to someone with whom you are estranged because of unforgotten wrongs and tell them, “Fuhgeddaboudit.”
Doing so is in the spirit of righteousness and being
Assertive listeners help the speaker express the fullness of their message. Sometimes this requires the listener to invite the speaker to tell their story.
Here’s an example.
The usual Sunday night crowd was assembling at my church. People mingled in the spacious foyer engaged in their usual chitchat accompanied with hugs and handshakes.
Marianne, a mildly retarded middle-aged woman, joined the fellowship. A lady approached Marianne, “Hello, dear. How are you this evening?”
“My cat died today,” Marianne said, hardly above a whisper, eyes downcast.
“Oh, my dear. How sad,” the lady replied, taking Marianne’s hand and patting it sympathetically. Then, moved on.
An elderly gentleman was next. “Good evening, Marianne. How have you been?”
“My cat died today,” she said in much the same way as before.
“I’m sorry to hear that. Are you going to get another one?” he asked.
“Don’t know yet.” Marianne forced a smile and dropped her gaze to the floor.
“Well, God bless you,” and the gentleman moved on.
I watched as this happened again with Marianne left standing alone, downcast.
So, I approached Marianne. “I overheard you say that your cat died today.”
“Yes. That’s right.”
“I’m so sorry for your loss. Would you tell me about your cat?” I waited.
Marianne’s eyes lit up. She smiled, and for the next five minutes, until it was time to enter the sanctuary, she told me about her tabby, Prissy, that she adopted as a stray seven years earlier. She produced a photograph of herself holding the cat up to her face.
I simply listened and asked her for more stories about her cat.
Then she hugged me, “Thank you for listening. You must be a cat lover.”
What was the difference? Others listened and offered sympathy.
I could tell she wanted to talk about her cat, and I helped her tell her story. It’s a small, but important, difference.
We often must go beyond active listening to assertive listening.
Assertive listening is helping the speaker express the full meaning of their message: what they think, feel, need, and want.
When you are known for your listening, you will never be without someone to talk to.
And, as an assertive listener, you will be
Be the present by being present.
If I give you a diamond necklace, or any gift, I signal my love.
If I spend a day, an evening, or even a single hour, with you totally immersed in your needs and interests–in just being with you and allowing everything to be all about you–I express my love.
Love is energy–a force–power–passion.
But it is not merely erotic, because lust and eroticism are mostly concerned with pleasing yourself first. Therefore, a lust for anything–money, power, excitement, sexual gratification, attention, status, etc.–is inherently selfish, sometimes at the expense of others.
Here’s a hint: if, when you picked out the gift for your “valentine,” your thoughts were about how good it would make you look in their eyes, the gift was more about you than about them. Just sayin’. (By the way, this trait is not gender specific.)
To me, an INPowering love is one in which I focus on what benefits others without thinking about what I’m going to get out of it.
An INpowering love allows me to look for the best in others, to believe in their inherent goodness, to be on their side and sincerely cheer for their success and happiness.
An INPowering love drives out envy, jealousy, and the need to be judgmental.
An INPowering love offers itself generously for the taking. No repayment necessary.
An INPowerng love causes me to be helpful, concerned, compassionate, kind, polite, forgiving, and accepting, among other qualities.
When we express an INPowering love, we are the present.
And we become more
How will you express your love?
For me, there is more joy in giving gifts than in receiving gifts.
Don’t get me wrong; I still like receiving and being surprised by what others give me. In fact, this is a photo of one of the most cherished gifts I ever received from my daughter. When I opened it, she and I were the only two in the room who knew why it was such a splendid gift. It told me that she knew who I am and my sense of humor. It represented special shared times we had watching the holiday classic, “A Christmas Story.”
When I look at it, I understand the phrase, “It’s the thought that counts.” For weeks before Christmas she kept telling me that she could hardly wait to give me this gift. Her joy was in the giving.
The gift is not the gift. It’s what the gift represents.
The joy I find in giving is thinking about the person who is receiving my gift – our relationship, why they are special in my life.
The joy I find in giving is in simply being able to give something special to someone and wanting them to have it for no other reason than I just want them to have it.
The joy I find in giving is that it does not require a special occasion such as birthdays, religious holidays and festivals, St. Valentine’s Day, or any other “gift expected” occasion. I am free to give anytime I choose to whomever I choose.
The joy I find in giving is that the most precious gifts are not purchased, but shared life experiences — the moments that become memories.
Shel Silverstein gave the world his story, The Giving Tree, in 1964. I have given this book as a gift many times because of the simple power of its message about the true spirit of giving. If you have not read this special story, here is a gift from me: follow these links to purchase your own copy: Amazon.com or Barnes and Noble.
INPowered giving is taking the initiative to make life better for someone else because you can.
Jesus, the reason for the Christmas season, gave. One of the most touching stories is of the leper who came begging Jesus for healing (Mark 1:40-45), “If you are willing you can make me clean.” A compassionate Jesus replied, “I am willing.” Jesus gave simply because he could.
In a previous post, I wrote that life is art, and an artist gives of herself or himself in the work they offer as an expression of who they are at their core. This is a gift. And giving of oneself to a life purpose is a personal and individual gift we all can give to the universe.
The Teacher in Ecclesiastes wrote: “I know there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live. That every man may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil – this is a gift of God,” (3:12, 13).
Give yourself to a life purpose of giving,
and be joyful,
because you will be