“Be Flexible, Bend but Don’t Break”
We’ve all been to that point, that breaking point where you are convinced that’s it, I have nothing more to give. Just let me curl up in a darkened room and feel sorry for myself. As unpleasant as this point is in one’s life we need moments like this to truly move to the proverbial next level. Without these breaking points we would be comfortable and we know comfort is highly overrated.
Well known football coach Mike Ditka, is quoted as saying in response to people faced with breaking point challenges ” be flexible, bend, but don’t break” This saying is the pivotal point that we all need to keep at the forefront our minds and write into our hearts. Believe it or not, facing situations that are deemed breaking point moments and choosing to break is actually the easy way out.
I learned some of my greatest leadership lessons from my mother. Not only was she faced with daily breaking point moments; as a single parent who lost her spouse to illness and faced with raising eight children on her own; let’s say breaking point moments were the norm for her, not the exception. Yet, I noticed she wouldn’t break but would demonstrate a flexibility in bending that would make the palm trees along the beaches of South America and the Caribbean appear stiff and rigid.
These are the qualities of an emotionally intelligent leader that Daniel Goleman wrote about in his book Primal Leaders: Unleashing the power of emotional intelligence. Same is true when one reads the works of authors such as Cy Wakeman in her book, The Reality-Based Rules of the Workplace; James Kouzes and Barry Posner, The Leadership Challenge: How to make extraordinary things happen in organizations. These authors and many others like them through their research into what makes great leaders, demonstrate the incredible qualities of resilience I have seen my own mother model all my life.
Why do some people faced with a breaking point situation actually break but yet others choose to bend but not break? Of course the answers to this question are many and hinge on multiple conditions some of which we will never know their true contributions.
If we were to focus on ‘normal’ healthy personality types ( no known health maladies) we would see the leadership and emotional intelligence practices demonstrated by people such as my own mother. In asking her about the multiple decisions she made back when we were younger and what motivated her to keep moving forward, her response has always been along the lines of, she owed it to us ( her children) not to give up.
In this simple yet powerful statement lies the answer to why certain leaders within organizations are successful in actually having willing followers while others are just out taking a walk, no followers.
Nelson Mandela described success in the most beautiful way I have ever heard, Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again. I think about my mother and all the great leaders with whom I am privileged to work. This is the power behind leading with the mind set that no matter how many times we might fall down that doesn’t define us. What defines us are the number of times we get back up.
The next series of blogs will speak to the topic of personal responsibility and accountability.
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