Be the Changer and the Changed

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As a young adult, figuring out how I wanted to live my life, I listened endlessly to a beautiful Cris Williamson song, Waterfall, that contained these lyrics:

When you open up your life to the livingAll things come spilling in on youAnd you're flowing like a river,the Changer and the Changed.You've got to spill some over,Spill some over,Spill some over,Over all.

Isn't that the essence of leadership: the ability to "open up your life to the living," to know how to be in the flow and "spill some over," so others can join you there?

Yet, this was certainly not the leadership model I witnessed or experienced. The "leaders" I saw were lost in the management of systems, money, people and paper. And, quite unintentionally, I'm sure, that is mostly what they "spilled over" onto the rest of us - overwhelm.

Oh, every year or two we would march off to some lovely off-site location where a hired facilitator would lead us through "team building" exercises, then help us identify our values, the dreaded "mission statement," and on to our goals and objectives. ("Didn't we do this before?")

I can assure you that very little of what we did "spilled over" onto anyone - at least not for long.

All the inspired "spilling over" - and, therefore, all the real "leadership" - happened at ground level, in the work with clients or students or small teams. There were these little pockets of "flowing like a river," where lives were truly being changed, and where we were changed by being part of it.

"What if?" I thought. What if leaders were so in touch with the amazing people and work going on in their organizations that their inspired noticing "spilled over" and became the cultural norm? What if they had the insight and skills to buffer us from the too-easy focus on systems, money and paper, and, instead, inspired us with a vision of what could be? What if we actually felt led? Inspired? Changed?

That would be leadership.

[bctt tweet="Leadership an art - neither easy nor obvious. "]

It's an art - neither easy nor obvious. It takes intention and consciousness, discipline and skill. Most of all, it requires risk: the risk to "open up your life to the livingand invite others to see what you see.

I've spent a lifetime chasing the vision in Cris Williamson's lyrics, and here's what I've learned. There is no arrival when it comes to being an inspired leader; just an ongoing process of learning and growing, the Changer and the Changed, an endless cycle of leading and being led.

Filling up and spilling overIt's an endless waterfall
Filling up and spilling over
Over all.