Discovering Leaders in Unlikely Places

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When it comes to yoga, I am a late bloomer. And gurus just aren’t my thing.

That said, yoga has me thinking a lot about leadership. You know, the kind that catches you by surprise, sports an unlikely garb, and bears a humble and unassuming title. The kind that’s a steady stream of consistent, intentional behavior that speaks for itself and invites you in.

I have such a leader and she is my yoga teacher.

One morning, as our usual crowd of approximately 60 settled in, our instructor, “Brenda,” read the announcements and brought up the subject of taking classes with other instructors: “I know you have your favorites; most of us do. But I find that it’s important to have other experiences, especially with instructors you don’t like so much.”

— Pause —

“You can learn a lot from people you don’t like.” Many chuckled in that I know what you’re talking about way and nodded in agreement.  And then Brenda dropped her invitational pearl of wisdom: “I find that I learn a lot about myself. And it isn’t pretty.”

— Complete silence —

Brenda was letting us in on something. Instead of creating a “we-they”, “good guy-bad guy,” “superior-inferior” dynamic, she demonstrated her willingness to look at her own fallibility as a human being. She didn’t ask if we could relate. She simply put it out there for us to think about, or not.

I find myself cataloguing Brenda’s pearls and thinking about them long after I’ve been humbled by plank and toppled in tree pose. Consider these (or not):

  • Turn your awareness inward before you turn it outward.

  • Find something to be happy about in every experience.

  • Manage your competitiveness so that it serves your good intentions.

  • Today is not yesterday. Today you can begin anew.

I can’t help but think how immediately transferable these simple thoughts are to the workplaces where we spend our days engaging with co-workers and customers.

There are many “Brenda’s” in our midst. I have known them and so have you. The question is: beyond setting direction, engaging, inspiring, coaching, removing barriers, recognizing, and rewarding, how can we acknowledge and cultivate the wisdom-sharing of these leaders who stir our imagination, make us think, and model a profound way of being?   

What difference would it make if we did?