It was so quiet it seemed as if I could hear every individual raindrop falling from the sky. I couldn’t remember a time when I felt this aware of my surroundings and of all of the sounds around me. I had been sitting there for an hour and a half, but it seemed like only minutes. This place was amazing; this state of complete awareness of what was around me, and yet I felt like I was missing so much. Another sound and my head snapped around and it was like a whole new world opened. I studied the landscape even more as I sat in wonder of what noise or movement was next.
For those of you who have never been hunting, it is a lot more than pulling a trigger. This was my first trip, and I was completely blown away. I sat mesmerized in a tree stand for four hours at a time over a period of a few days. There is now different meat in my refrigerator, but the impact of the trip was far greater than that. I had an encounter with nature that I had not experienced in a long time, and with that came a great sense of awareness.
On the way home from the four-day trip my neighbor and I were talking about the adventure. Well, mostly I was talking. And in mid-sentence he interrupted me with a shout and asked if I had seen that deer on the side of the road. “What deer?” I quickly questioned him. ”That one, right there,” he shouted.
I didn’t see it, and I was discouraged. Not discouraged because I didn’t see it — discouraged because after that profound nature experience where I gained such a sense of awareness, I felt like it was gone. My friend still had it, but I went right back into my old ways of hearing myself talk without being aware of my surroundings.
Recently, I have been doing a lot of studying and speaking about servant leadership. This is the style of leadership I have embraced and want to leave as my legacy. It is a style of leadership that Chris [Walden] and I have written about at Culture Infusion, and one of its core principles is awareness.
In the context of servant leadership, awareness can mean general awareness, especially self-awareness. Awareness of the whole person helps in resolving issues related to ethics, power, or values. When I speak about servant leadership in groups, I start out by having everyone close their eyes and think of a time in their life where they have done something wrong or someone has done something wrong to them. Everyone can do it and everyone thinks of something. It takes some of the tension out of the room and it allows people to think that the playing field is level, because they know they thought of something and so did the person next to them. I use that 30-second period of time to set a baseline of awareness. The key to awareness is to not only be aware that you carry things around with you, whether self-inflicted or from someone else, but that every member of your team does too. If you asked all of members of your team to close their eyes, they too would think of things.
From there, I either talk about forgiveness or identity. Forgiveness may be the only way to move on when harmed by someone. It doesn’t absolve them, but it does free you. As far as identity goes, I remind them — and me too, really — that I am not my mistakes, nor am I my successes. I am human, created to do great things. I am not success or failure. Often times I see people — and I see this because I did this for a long time — who walk around with their failure as their identity. They tie themselves to failure so much that it hampers their ability to progress. As leaders we need to be aware of this in ourselves and in those we lead.
This is perhaps why I was so disappointed by missing the deer. I want to be so aware of what is going on around me. I want to be aware of what I think about when I close my eyes for 30 seconds, but I want to learn about what others think about and carry with them. By being aware of these things, I can be a better leader and have greater impact in someone’s life. This is really the heart of a servant leader. To be able to positively impact those around you in such a way that you leave a legacy.
That is the goal, but, like how I missed the deer on the road, I often miss what is going on in others’ lives because I am talking too much. I am planning on finding another tree stand very soon. It is bow hunting season here in northeast Florida. I really don’t care at this point; to be honest, I am after something that can have a greater impact on me than the hunt, or just meat. I am seeking a level of awareness that puts my surroundings in front of my selfishness. If a tree stand can help achieve that, I am in.
You may not at all be interested in hunting or sitting in a stand, but what would interest you as far as taking time to just listen is concerned? Find it and embrace the quiet. Learn how to be aware of first yourself, then your surroundings, and eventually, this will bleed over to how you lead, and ultimately your legacy.