Empowering Leadership Journeys
I had finally arrived... with my slick downtown apartment with a balcony that overlooked the red swing bridge in the Flats of Cleveland Ohio. On a clear day you could see the span from the lake to the stadium. Clear or not, it was a great place to do my thinking - as thinking is my business. That particular day I was out there thinking about an upcoming coaching session with a newly appointed leader. It was a highly celebrated promotion and rightly so - as it came with the usual money and power and perks. But my client, still intoxicated by the shiny new title and the glamorous good stuff that came with it, was suddenly coming face-to-face with the not-so-sexy side of leading. Now he was dealing with the industrious part of leading - the working part. ...the part that wasn’t about him because it was about them. ...the part that wasn’t about the promotion; now it had to be about moving the will of his people. The fun and festive congratulations had passed; now it was time to produce.
That section of the crooked river, under my balcony, was drab and gray and brown; and I watched while that old red bridge swung open and closed to let big rusty barges and tenacious little tugboats push through and lurch toward Lake Erie and the horizon behind it. This was the industrious part of the river - the working part. And that's when it crystalized...
Of leadership, people will often say: “I can't define it - but I know it when I see it.” It's true. Leadership is resistant to definition in concrete terms. So why do we, over millennia, continue to define it, study it, pursue it and become it? Because Leadership is potent - just like a river. It’s industrious; it works - without pretense. It is uncomplicated and without need of glamour. It is quiet, but powerfully causing change amid crooked twists and unpredictabilities. True leadership has little to do with titles and superficialities. True leadership engages people and processes and systems - and through them - causes change that adds value. True leadership is about the industrious part, the working part. Leadership, like a working river, doesn’t need the superfluous to be sure of itself. It just journeys toward its vision on the horizon. And all of us - in the presence of leadership, are sure of it.
In that moment, the idea of Working River Leadership Consulting was born. In that moment, I committed to building a brand that was known for helping people manifest their unique brand of leadership in ways that are evident and add value to their organizations and to themselves. I wanted to empower that journey by delivering realistic and pragmatic solutions to people who wanted to become leaders and better leaders. I committed to supporting leaders as they grappled with the industrious parts - the working parts of influencing others and causing change that mattered in their organizations. Leadership hardly needs another metaphor. But when I looked at that undulating water, its constant movement, the fundamental objective the river below my flat facilitated, I knew helping leaders become what they would and could be, was my life's work.