“Caretake this moment. Immerse yourself in its particulars. Respond to this person, this challenge, this deed. Quit evasions. Stop giving yourself needless trouble. It’s time to really live; to fully inhabit the situation you happen to be in now.” –Greek philosopher, Epictetus
You are a leader. Perhaps it’s inherent to your title, perhaps not. Regardless, it’s baked into your responsibilities.
You may only see it as part of your job, say 20% of your role. Perhaps you suffer from imposter syndrome, terrified someone will find out that you don’t have the relevant skill set. Or maybe you’ve always understood yourself as a leader; you just finally have the title to go with it. If only other people would start treating you accordingly.
Regardless of your starting point, if you are a leader you have a responsibility to live fully and inhabit your leadership. You have not just permission to do this, but a responsibility to. Why? Because this is what your organization needs; this is what the people you lead need. When you shirk the full potential of that role, whether from humility or cowardice, you inherently limit yourself and others.
What does it mean to “fully inhabit”? Think of it like taking up residence in a new home. If you never unpack the boxes, fail to hang any pictures or art, and never bother having your mail forwarded, then the neighbors know you aren’t really committed to sticking around the neighborhood. They sense you won’t be contributing to the summer block party, let alone plan to show up for it.
But if you unpack those boxes, hang the art that is a reflection of who you are and what you love, and update the address on your driver’s license, you are on the path to fully inhabiting. Take it even further now: meet the neighbors, sign up for a local trail run, and try out all the nearby eateries and cafes. Essentially, go beyond the first critical steps of accepting where you are and embrace it. You can still have all the many feelings that come with a big move—the sudden nostalgia for something you used to take for granted, the nervousness about whether it was the right move to make—and still take steps to commit all the same.
That’s a lovely philosophical idea, isn’t it, but what does that really look like at work? It’s both a mindset and a series of actions.
Shift Your Mindset
The mindset of fully inhabiting your role is to see yourself as a leader, imperfections and all, and acknowledge the accompanying responsibility to contribute not just to the people on your team, but also to the organization.
Share Your Point of View
You have a point of view: share it. Share that informed opinion, that provocative and productive question. Share up, down, and out. Up: Share with those who lead you, advocating for your team as well as adding your unique perspective to the larger strategy. Down: Share with your team—not just business-related messages, but what you are learning as a leader in your organization. What ideas do you have for your team to be able to more effectively influence within your organization, given what you know about the people in it? Out: Your peer network is one of the most overlooked assets and resources. What can you share to collaboratively shape the business; what can you ask to ensure you are learning from outside your silo?
Fill in the Necessary Gaps
You may have gaps in knowledge or expertise: solve for that. Seek out those who’ve been in the organization longer and who can provide important historical context for that particular challenge you are facing. Take a self-directed crash course in a topic you need to be more well-versed in: read books and articles, watch videos, interview your peers, sign up for a workshop. Stretch out into your role; fill all those rooms in your new home with furniture.
Your organization needs you to fully inhabit your leadership, but there’s something in it for you, too . There’s the deep satisfaction that comes from being fully present—of being able to respond to the moment with your whole self. As the British philosopher Alan Watts says: “What keeps us from happiness is our inability to fully inhabit the present.” So choose to develop your leadership mindset and fully inhabit leadership; it’s time to really live. Check out our leadership skills training module to learn more.