Real Men Push Pink Strollers: Are You Comfortable With Who You Are?
Okay. Get it out of your system. Laugh your ass off. That’s me pushing the youngest of my two granddaughters last September.
Now let’s get down to business.
I’m long past any pretense that I’ll ever exceed 5 foot 6 (in fact, I’m shrinking as we all do). That darn growth spurt never did arrive after grade nine. So be it. I’m healthy, have four great adult kids, two granddaughters, and a great wife, Sue, to whom I’ve been married 33 plus years. And I’m about to retire and start a new gig (yet to be defined).
We tend to go through life worried about what others think of us, often coveting the very cool sports car next door (especially the Porsche 911) and feebly attempting to create a persona that’s not really who we are. At work, we get caught up in what Peter Senge has labeled “I am my position,” an element of his seven learning disabilities. I recall my younger brother saying to me some 15 years ago when my chief economist position was axed as part of a huge reorg and downsizing: “But Jim, you had so much status!”
I never quite thought of it that way. I just did my work–and loved it. “Shit happens,” as they say, and I moved on, becoming enraptured with leadership. There’s a reason for shit happening: it creates clarity of purpose, provides a catalyst for change and the opportunities for new beginnings.
I’ve reinvented myself several times during my 32 years in the labor force. And I’m about to do it again. There’s a saying that has guided me for some 13 or 14 years, and it comes from California anthropologist and leadership consultant Angeles Arrien (author of the superb book “The Fourfold Way): “Be open to outcome, not attached to it.”
There’s so much happening and so quickly in our tiny universe called planet Earth that it has overwhelmed us. We’ve become fixated on the newest smart phone technology, ring tone, the latest social media development or the foibles of Lady Gaga and her meat dress (replace Lady gaga with the name of any celebrity; you get my point).
But what’s at dire risk is our own personal leadership and our ability to extend our perspective beyond ourselves. Forget about the façade of trying to appear the cool dude at work or the know-it-all. I’ve seen and worked with far too many of these people, often the thirty-something who was accelerated far too quickly into a senior management position, only to realize they’re drowning. But rather than admit to needing their team’s help–and opening the kimono to reveal their human side–what occurs is the raising of the defensive routines to shield insecurity.
This is why guys need to push pink strollers and learn to laugh at themselves. Get over it now fellas, especially if you’re a Gen Y or X. Those you lead will respect you all the more.
And for the females in the crowd, while pink strollers may not be the best metaphor for softening up your defensive routines you also need to look at the “I am my position” learning disability and determine how best to extend your human side to your co-workers and team-mates.
The best response for a leader to a complex question is, “I don’t know the answer, but if we work together we’ll come up with one or more solutions.”
And just to prove how short I am, here I am with my daughter Joanne and long-time friend (and college roommate) Phil.
Integrity is about telling the truth – to yourself and to your followers. (Jim Taggart)
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