The Light in your Eyes
Take yourself back to the days in which you were offered your most important jobs. How did you feel? You were likely excited and hopeful, happy to have the opportunity to prove your own worth. You may also have been determined to not repeat any past mistakes or political faux pas.
For most of us, the first day at a new job may include a complex array of emotions - enthusiasm and fear, confidence mixed with a nagging feeling of "oh boy, what did I get myself into?" It is unlikely, however, that you would start a new job disengaged.
Engagement - a close connection between who we are and what we do - involves three main components: physical, cognitive, and emotional engagement.
Now, consider the following consequences of the above definitions:
Unfortunately, "stuff happens" at work. Maybe you were given more to do than you could handle. Maybe your energy was drained by lack of resources, excessive demands, and confusing requests. Maybe it felt unsafe to be you at work - you may have faced the pressure to pretend to act or feel like someone else. Finally, maybe you simply discovered that your job did not match your interests or capabilities.
My question today is: When did you become disengaged ... and why? Perhaps if we could understand the sources of disengagement, we could:
When did you lose "the light in your eyes"? Can you tell us about it?
A disclaimer: You may want to share experiences from days gone by, rather than your current experiences - remember that anything posted online tends to stay there.
The newly released Disney movie "Maleficent" is another must see - yes, even for you who don't have young kids. Actually, the beautiful symbolism of the movie might be totally lost on children - this is a movie for grownups to enjoy. Watch the trailer below.
Warning: Spoiler alert - if you don't want to know anything about the movie yet, go watch it first, then come back to this blog. I won't tell anyone the ending, though.
In this new take on the classic tale of Sleeping Beauty, Maleficent was once a beautiful fairy who loved flying over her beloved moors. She also loved Stephen, whom she had met as a boy. Young Stephen, however, had powerful ambitions. He wanted to become king. When the dying king promised the crown to whomever slayed "the winged creature" Stephen took his chances. He attracted Maleficent to his side, pretended to love her, and clipped her wings. Thus, when Maleficent issued her powerful curse on Stephen's child, she was acting out of revenge and bitter grief.
Aurora grew up to become a sweet teenager, beloved by all. Watch the clip below, when Aurora tells Maleficent how she sees her.
I won't say more so as not to spoil the movie experience for anyone who hasn't seen it yet. Instead, I'll address the "two Maleficents": The evil and powerful fairy whom everyone fears and the loving protector Aurora sees. Who is the "real" Maleficent? The villain or the hero?
Arguably, both - and there lies the beauty of the movie. Maleficent reminds us that leaders are not all good or all evil. Instead, leaders could be molded by love and grief, support and hostility, excitement and disappointment.
This "human quality" of leaders has three interesting implications.
First, no amount of "development" will trump the complexity of human nature. The same leader could be a hero to some and a villain to others. Good and evil may lie "on the eye of the beholder."
Second, the good of a leader may depend - at least in part - on others. Like young Aurora, some followers may have the power to transform villains into heroes.
Are you planning a leadership development process for your organization? Then consider this. Maleficent did not become a better leader after completing a 360 assessment or participating in a leadership training workshop. She did not hire an executive coach. She simply had the gift of a follower who loved her.
Remember the followers. They are leaders too.
About the Author
Dr. Cris Wildermuth is an Assistant Professor at Drake University, where she coordinates and teaches at the Master of Science in Leadership Development.