The other day I was outside and noticed a large weed had grown up in half of an old wine barrel we use for plants. I grabbed it as close to the soil as I could and pulled on it. Nothing. I reached down again and pulled with two hands and the weed came out slowly. When all of it had finally emerged the root of the weed was almost as long as the weed itself. I noticed another one and removed it. In another pot, there was also a tall weed. I yanked on it and it didn’t budge. I tried again and zero gain. Even with two hands, it wasn’t going anywhere. The roots of the weed had entangled themselves with the roots of the bush in this pot and were only coming out if the bush came out with it.
Reflecting back on the tall weeds I thought about how there are often weeds in our lives. Hurts, habits, and hang-ups that don’t produce anything positive and affirming in us. Often before any of these “weeds” are noticed they have rooted themselves in our attitudes, personalities, words, and actions. When we become aware of them or someone else makes us aware we want to rid ourselves of them. We face our hurts, develop better, more mindful habits and try to untangle ourselves from hangups. Hopefully, they come out and goodness, kindness, and love take their place. However, if we aren’t careful and allow these “weeds” to continue to take root, dig deeper into our souls they become a part of us and we can’t tell where they end and we begin.
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I had a conversation last week with someone about a person I used to know who got on my every last nerve almost every day. We talked about how this person, who probably had good intentions, didn’t have a way with people. In fact, there were many who repelled by his brusque personality and crude behavior. I relayed a story about a time he wanted to help but was unable because of who this person was on the inside and outside.
There were days I dreaded knowing I would encounter this man. It got to a point where this person was beginning to take up an inordinate amount of space in my mind. One day it dawned on me that I was spending too much time thinking about them and not focused on stillness of spirit. I threw on my tennis shoes, took a long walk, and hashed out in my mind all the things this person did and when I felt I had it all in a nice tight ball in the pit of my stomach, I took it out (metaphorically of course) and threw it away. I decided I would not give this one the power to make me crazy(er?) any longer. It was the freest and at ease, I had been in a long time.
We can’t and will not get along with everyone. Personalities clash, goals and visions collide, certain people and us don’t mix. This is okay as long as we treat them with respect, put some distance between us if at all possible, and never let them steal our inner peace.
This morning someone asked me if; “a leader with a strong personality is a good or bad thing?” I reflected for a few moments on the leaders I have served under. Surprisingly there haven’t been too many who’ve had strong personalities. As I whittled my way through the last I thought of two who fit the description. Interestingly enough one had the opposite personality of the other.
The first was gregarious, affable and larger than life in his expressions of love and support for friend and stranger. He was the type who would come unexpectedly into my office, plop down in a chair, talk for a while and then decide we needed to go to breakfast, no matter the time of day. He wasn’t in competition with his staff, allowed others to shine and didn’t keep a scorecard.
The other wasn’t at all like the former. His personality was certainly large but in a way that kept others in fear of their job or at least being aware their job’s future was in his hands. I do not doubt his love for other people but his leadership style could be overbearing and constraining. There was one way, his, one voice, also his. He believed his vision for where the organization was to go was the right one and took umbrage to anyone who challenged this belief. For those who were comfortable with his style, and their place in the food chain, things were pretty smooth. For those who struggled under the weight of his personality it could be difficult and debilitating.
As the conversation with my friend continued I spoke about both leaders, their style of leading and managing and their grandiose personas. “For those with over-sized personalities, whose job it is to guide staffs, peoples and organizations, not taking oneself too seriously is a good trait to possess. Humility, a servant’s heart and a willingness for others to succeed, to surpass and outgrow your ability to lead are also rare and valuable gifts. Leadership isn’t about sitting, guarding the big chair, but helping others find big chairs of their own to sit in.”