One of the greatest freedoms I have experienced is accepting how much I don’t know. In humbly coming to the realization that each person I encounter has a gift or piece of wisdom to offer me, I have opened to the wonder of exploring the world in an entirely new way. Through these experiences I have come to understand that the wisest among us are often the youngest.
In western culture, we generally view children as empty vessels that must be filled with knowledge from their elders. These “blank slates” are born to soak-up information from the world around them and learn how to be responsible adults and contributing members of society. On numerous occasions one of my two sons have brought forth a piece of wisdom or insight that have changed my perceptions of the world. The beauty in opening up to the wisdom of the young is that they are not trying to impress you with their brilliance, nor are they striving to score points, they are simply offering an insight free of filters that goes straight to the heart of the issue. Two recent examples have hit home with me.
On a life changing level, for the past handful of years I have watched my older son, now 13, resist the mindless compliance required so often in our educational system. While learning and standards are important, asking all children to learn the same things in the same way is a deadening experience in a world in which access to information allows for more creativity than is often found in the typical classroom. His reaction to traditional education coupled with his desire to live a physical lifestyle in a beautiful environment led to me find a wonderful boarding school for him across the country. After a few visits, it was clear that he was not the only one longing for a different way of life—I too wanted the same thing and yet, it was only after his determination to resist falling into the trap of the prescribed life did I recognize my own desire to live in a more authentic way.
My younger son, who will also benefit from our new adventure, has wisdom that often brings a smile to my face. In the era of applications, he enjoys finding new games to play and will sometimes suggest one that he feels I would like. After this occurred a few times, I asked him how he knew that I would like a particular game. His response, “you like games where you have to think.” He was right. I love strategy and figuring things out and it is an integral part of my personality. He didn’t need to read books or take classes to know this fact, his simple act of sincere observation led him to this natural conclusion; proving once again what I say to my clients, “I am not here to teach what you don’t know, rather to help you rediscover what you already know and have forgotten.”
So what does all this have to do with leadership? Two incredibly important things:
1. Living the Leadership Choice is our natural state. Knowing who we are, what we want and how to connect with others to make it happen is how we are innately wired. These are not foreign skills, rather they what we are born to be before others told us we had to be different to survive and succeed.
2. Effective leaders are always learning from everyone. Too often leaders feel that they reach a certain point and “know it all” so that it appears weak to learn from others, especially children. Conducting ourselves in such a way that keeps us open to new insights and wisdom we will soon find it appearing in surprising places.
As we watch the absurdity of some of the “leadership” taking place in our world today, we may wonder how these people have managed to get into these positions of power. By becoming aware of our ability to shift our perspectives we take back the power we have relegated to others and begin to own our ability to change our world. Perhaps an infant’s perspective that they are the center of the Universe is not a bad model to emulate, after all, as it is ultimately up to each one of us to create the world we want to live in. Living life with the wonder and joy of a child is a model worth considering.