In the first chapter of The Zen Leader, Ginny Whitelaw suggests that acceptance is a huge part of the first step a leader must take when the situation gets challenging. Only when we observe what is and accept that it really is happening can we actually have impact which transforms. Without acceptance, we likely head down the path of negative energies which, she suggests, often look like tolerance, rationalization, resistance, anger or rage, denial. With acceptance, we have the possibility of coming to understand what is and, from there, channel our energy in positive directions which can lead to joy and enthusiasm.
In my own life recently, I was faced with behaviors in friends close to me which I do not respect or want to be part of. I wanted to deny that they existed! I also noticed that I erected an invisible wall around me which effectively blocked out real connection. Relationship without connection, and relationship steeped in judgment as I’d felt, was not a likely foundation for the positive change I so desired.
I remembered to begin with acceptance. It is what it is. It is real – for now anyway. From that place, I stepped into their world. I tried to see from the inside out and noticed that this was actually (and I hear judgment still present!) better behavior than in earlier years, that people change, that I, too, had been there, done that, and eventually changed. I also remembered how hard it was to be me back then. This realization invited a bit of compassion into my heart from which I could feel love for the persons even as I disliked their behavior. I was beginning Ginny’s road up from the negative energies into acceptance, joy and enthusiasm!
As leaders, we must be with what is — whether that is failing business ventures, others’ distrust in our leadership abilities, employees struggling to do their jobs, the economy negatively impacting our work or anything else which creates stress or challenge. We must see it as it is, accept it and step into it open and ready to understand the whole picture. Then, we widen our view yet more to listen for, hear and embrace possibility.
Where are you resisting what is?
What is the impact?
What do you notice when you try on acceptance?
(*) If Zen Leadership is peaking your interest, check out:
The Zen Leader book discussions September-November 2017
The Institute for Zen Leadership