Spring is a time for cleaning, you know, Spring Cleaning…
– Yard work
– All the closets in the house
– The Garage
– The Windows
– The Walls
Every surface and every corner gets a good deep cleaning, places you haven’t looked at all winter and now you are obligated to, for Spring Cleaning is a passage, a passage from the bleak dark days of winter in to the glory of spring and all she offers. The new growth, the smells and the sun. Yep, spring cleaning is as much apart of spring as Halloween is of autumn. And for the most part, we look forward to spring cleaning because we understand the importance of it. Not just the simple fact that we are clearing out the dust of the past 8 months, but there is more to it, it goes deeper than just that. There is something about it, something that seems to touch our deepest being.
How do I know this, just look at that facts, a quick search on Amazon for books on spring cleaning and I get 2201 hits, and a Google search returns about 112,000,000 hits…. Now tell me that people don’t feel a deep need to clear out the dust and cobwebs once per year, starting off fresh and new.
Now, I offer you Spring Cleaning: A Leadership Skill, a skill that every leader or want-to-be leader needs in their tool box. So what is it, what exactly is Spring Cleaning for Leaders? Well it’s not cleaning out the old corner office nor is it having all the workers clean up the work place. It’s not a fresh paint job, although all those things should be done from time to time. But that’s not leadership, that’s cleanliness.
Spring Cleaning Leadership has more to do with the person than the possessions. It’s a time for a leader to stop and look deep into the corners of their minds, to scrub every surface of their hearts and to open up the windows of their souls and let the fresh air in, once again.
Cleaning the deep corners of the mind
This is a perfect time to look at your deeply held thoughts and beliefs, a time to reevaluate your long-standing positions and to seek out new ways to approach issues, people and life. Lets say that you have always held the position that your job, as a leader, has always been one of dictatorship, that you give orders and they follow. And lets say that it has worked for you, that over the years people have always said that you’re a dictator, but you always get the job done right and on time. Over all, not a bad record. The job is done and on time and as a bonus, it was done right the first times.
So your thinking, great, this leader can skip the first step, they have no room for change or improvement. Why mess with what works… As the old saying goes, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!
But lets look at it anyway, lets pretend…
So what would the leader have to look at, what corner of the heart needs fixin’? Well, a lot of the depends on what the leader considers important in their life. Is the only goal to complete the task or do they see more? Do they see personal development of their people as important? Or is it just get the job done, do what you have always done, the same way you always have, we have a proven method that has worked for years and years and will continue to work for years to come. We are like a well oiled machine, no monkey wrenches needed.
Sure, the job will get done, and sure it will be right the first time, but are we missing something that may have improved it, something that may have saves time, effort or money? Maybe that person you hired to do job “X” had a new idea that would have save time and effort for the person doing job “Z”… Or maybe the person doing job “X” would be better at job “Z”… the possibilities are endless, yet we will never know them if we hold true to our deepest convictions that this is the way its done, always has been and always will be…
Even the best leaders can get caught in the trap of familiarity. So spring is a perfect time to re-examine your methods.. Are they really the best way or just the known way?
Scrubbing every surface of the heart
Leaders, true leaders are servants, and must have a servant’s heart. This is a fact, not just a nice saying. Someone can be the boss and call themselves a leader, but if they do not have a servant’s heart they are nothing more than a boss. And truth be told, anyone can be a boss, its really not to hard to “boss” people around. But a leader, a true leader, they are few and far between, leaders grow into true leadership, it is rare to find a natural servant leader, it is more often than not that the person worked long and hard scrubbing the surfaces of their heart before anyone would truly call them a servant leader. So what exactly is scrubbing of the heart, and how does one do so?
We all have dark places with in our heart, places where we hold deep grudges or prejudices. Places within our hearts where the light of servanthood cannot and does not shine. Places that even we fear to go. It is exactly those places that we must scrub. But how? How does one scrub the deep dark places of the heart…
Work, lots and lots of work… Prayer and humility are the best places to begin.
Lets look at the example from above, the same leader who got the job done on time and right every time. Once again, not a bad thing, and lets say that over all they are open-minded to new and different approaches… So, so far a good leader, they allow people of offer new ways of doing things, and allow people to try new and different jobs, if time allows for it and the circumstances are appropriate.
That’s a good over all rule, one would not want to risk messing up on a major project, sometimes the old ways are the best ways. But if the job is less risky and time permits, it makes sense to allow a little experimentation to take place.
But now lets say that such a job was taking place, a job that allows for this. Perfect… So worker “A” wants to try their hand at something new, they ask for the opportunity and its granted… Perfect… so far… worker “B” also asks to try their hand at something new, but this time is denied. Now lets say that both workers have the same level of experience and time on the job, that both workers are qualified to do the tasks at hand, but for some unknown reason, worker “B” is denied.
The leader gave a reason, something along the line of, we just can’t afford to put you on that job, you are needed here. Sounds good, in fact it sounds like a complement. Sounds like you are so valuable to the task at hand tat we can not afford to risk losing you to the other job.
Here is where the leader must stop and look deep within… Is that the real reason or is there a deeper darker reason. Is it because the person is no the same-sex, age, race or religion as they are? Is it because once, many moons ago they did or said something that you found hurtful or offensive, or maybe once, in the distance past, they messed up a job, and you had to take the blame for it… There can be millions of reasons why… But none are valid.
It is time to scrub the heart, to remove the old hurts and hate and to replace it with understanding and forgiveness. You may not like that person very much, on a personal basis, but that should have no bearing on the job at hand. If they can do the work and do it to the standards that everyone else on the team must meet, than they should be given the opportunity, to succeed or fail, the same as anyone else.
But change does not happen over night, it is a long and hard process, one that needs to be worked on little by little… The first step is for the leader to recognize that there heart needs a good spring cleaning, the second step, list the dirty spots down, know what needs to be scrubbed away. And the lest step, start cleaning, pick one dirty spot, clean it and then move on to the next. Just like cleaning the walls of your house, you don’t move around randomly from wall to wall, spot to spot… You pick one wall to start on and clean it before moving on to the next.
Open up the windows of the soul to let the fresh air in
Leadership, authentic leadership, is a relationship with yourself and others, the group and individual. Leadership is never in a void or vacuüm, it is always in the eye of the storm, and this is where we will discover the soul of any great leader.
The image of the eye of the storm is a strong image, one that invokes many other images, such as power and calmness, force and anti-force. Any great leader will tell you that is with in the storm that leaders are often times born. The forces that play upon the soul of such a person do not destroy them, but rather they ignites within them the sleeping giant that waits to be awaken.
We have all witnessed such leadership, think of times in your life when just the right person steps forward to take control, think of times of tragedy or strife, times of chaos and confusion.
Leaders seem to always emerge from such things. It is the soul that moves them into action. It was the winds of change and chaos that propelled them into the eye of the storm. They opened up the windows within their souls and allowed the wind to blow thru and into their soul. Leaders not by choice but by baptism, baptism of fire.
I could go back to the example I used above, but to me, it seems it would cheapen the soul to do so. This spring cleaning project stands on its own…
Not every great leader was born of the eye of the storm, but every great leader must walk into that very same eye, and the only way to do so is to open your windows…
So what are the windows of the soul? and how does one open them…?
The eyes are said to be the windows of our souls, and I, for one believe this to be. How often have I heard the phrase, look me in the eyes when you are talking to me… and how often I have said the same… But why… Why is it so important to look into the eyes…
Because we all seem to see something more than just the eyes, we all seem to see deeper…
Leaders need to work with open eyes, nit just eyes that see the task at hand, but eyes the seem to see the underlying current of their team, eyes that can see the slight difference in a persons face or eyes that notice the off color of a persons personality. Eyes that are open to see the colors of the world, even in the darkness of it.
Leaders do not need to be told what is going on, they should be able to perceive it from not what there eyes see but rather from what there eyes tell them. Leaders learn to listen to there eyes (souls) rather then to see with them. The windows of the soul are the eyes that are open, that see the path that leads in the storm, if that is necessary, and out of the storm, if that is required. Leaders think not of the safe exit of themselves, but of the team whom they lead. And the soul, if allowed to do so, will lead them into the storm or around the storm, but it will never avoid the storm.
So how do we open our windows, and allow the fresh air in? We allow the eyes to do the souls bidding, we allow the winds to guide us. But to do this we need to first learn how to open the windows… How to feel the wind upon our soul and how to freely go wear the wind directs.
We have to practice observation, we need to learn to see the tree with in the forest and the breeze upon the leaf. In the office this means seeing everyone as a person, not just a worker, at home this means seeing family members as individuals and not a collective and in the community at large it means seeing each member of the community as a individual being.
For example, how many times have you ever been compared to others, such as, When so-and-so did this job, they did it this way… In the eyes of that person, you are not an individual, but rather part of the collective, many of the one, rather than one of the many. In larger companies this seems to be, more often than not, the case. How often people say, I feel just like a number to them, not a person”. The eyes of the corporation are closed and has no soul. But leaders to, if there eyes are open.
Experiment, learn to see things differently, try to notice one new thing in your office/home/school/community each day, teach your eyes to see deeper and allow your soul to take you… Pray and be still, be open to hear the soul and allow the moment to take you… Like any other skill, this takes practice…
And in the End…
Like anything in life, hard work and dedication to the task at hand is paramount in completing the task, the same can be said for leadership and change. The opportunity to do a little “Spring Cleaning” is an opportunity to start fresh… no examine your life, your leadership and to make changes for the better,