Leadership Between the Lines

Creating space below the bar...a necessary leadership "evil"

A friend of mine came to my office today for a session to work on her business. We had 2 hours, she was 40 minutes late. When she got here she was harried, stressed, completely pressurized. When I asked her why she was so late (my irritated presence and energy doing nothing to help her), she burst into tears.

"I'm doing so much, for so many, you have no idea how much it took me to take 2 hours out for myself today. And I couldn't even do that. I have no space for failure. My whole life has to be above the bar - for everyone. Every minute. Every day. I have to live above the bar. I was hoping on my way over here that you would let me be below the bar today. I was hoping you might hold space for me."

Her last two sentences totalled me. Gulp. Shiver. Tears in the back of my eyes. Paradigm shift. Complete compassion. Within a second, my irritation turned to jelly as compassion (battling with a bit of shame for being such an energetic jerk) took over. All in a second.

Paradigm shifts and impact.

The point of this post is not compassion or paradigm shifts. Though take that if you may because it's an invaluable thing to remember: when people are late, when people blow us off, when people "fail" - we have no clue what's happening. Our assumptions run a muck. Our assumptions and judgements create energy that either contributes to helping things go better or contributes to making them worse.

In our better days, as our better selves, compassion, love, and curiosity come first - and if necessary, "fixing it" comes later.

Creating space for authenticity, creating a different kind of "above the bar".

Giving people the space to live "below the bar" every once in a while; to provide care; compassion; support; and safe space; to witness them, is an act of leadership. It is an honor to be trusted to hold this space for someone; it's where intimacy and trust are born at a deeper level, it's where the ego and spirit can take a breath, and it's where people grow.

What's more, we have to give ourselves permission - full permission - to go "there". To be vulnerable. To be "below the bar" - if even for a minute. Our own facility with being able to go above and below the bar, being willing to be seen and supported there, and being able to grow from it, is a part of expanding our emotional resiliency, creativity, and leadership.

Leadership requires authenticity. And sometimes that authenticity may mean that an afternoon, a day, a week, or longer...may just fall "below the bar". And that might just be okay.

Here's what I know...Above the bar, 100% of the time, is...exhausting. It's depleting. It's unsustainable. It is not joyful. It is not real.

Your life needs you to be real. The people around you need you to be real. The faster we authentically own where we are, lean into it, get support, and experience it, the faster we move forward, get bigger, and expand ourselves creating a life of full expression. This in itself might just be a another kind of living "above the bar".

And, because I know this has likely crossed your mind while reading this...YES, there will be times - many most likely - when feeling "under that bar" will need to be "self-managed" because you need to be "on" for your team or something big. Cool, I get it. (Bravo for self-management + authenticity.) So self-manage, and then, make sure you take care of yourself later as my friend who inspired this post did with me.