One of my favorite playground games as a child was “tug-of-war.” Tug-of-war (or rope pull) is a game where two opposing teams are given a rope and asked to test their team’s strength by pulling on opposite ends of the rope. The goal of this sport is to get one team to exert their strength and force by pulling the rope a certain distance in one direction in order to pull the opposing team across a predetermined line separating the two teams. While I loved this game, because of my smaller size and stature and as much as I wanted to be, I was never asked to be the anchor (person at the end of the rope) for the team. Disappointingly, the pivotal role for the anchor person was typically reserved for one of the “stronger, bigger kids” on our team. One of the primary leadership lessons I’ve learned from the “tug-of-war” game has been that the anchor person’s strength, influence, and contributions to the team are only as good as their ability to keep their feet balanced, centered, and well-grounded. However, the moment the anchor person’s footing begins to slip and become unstable, their strength and influential contributions to the overall team becomes weakened. Being grounded, balanced, and centered really matters!

Similarly, our work and life as leaders is often presented with many “tug-of-war” moments and experiences that include surprising challenges and unforeseen obstacles. And, as most us know, without being well-grounded and centered, these disruptive experiences have the ability to weaken and undermine our influence, pull or push us off course, and inevitably, can become a detour and/or a road-block to our success. In Human Centered Leadership, the idea of “centeredness” is a critical attribute of effective leadership that assists us in pushing against and/or work with these oppositional forces that could undermine our creative efforts. 

So, why does centeredness matter in leadership? In their book titled “Centered Leadership,” authors Joanna Barsh and Johanne Lavoie remind us that leaders who are truly centered are capable of leading themselves and being personally accountable in investing in their own growth and development. Through centeredness, we keep ourselves anchored by providing a meaningful reference point that allows us to successfully navigate our leadership journey and arrive at our desired destination. Centeredness is a state of greater mindfulness that keeps us level-headed, on-track, and able to successfully manage stress and change. Being centered provides the necessary grounding we need to be at our best and access our positive core of strengths in order to achieve our mission critical tasks and assignments. Centered leaders have a clarity of purpose and intent built on an inner confidence of knowing who they are, what they believe and value, and where they need/want to go. Most importantly, being centered allows us to fully engage our hearts and minds and be fully present in the moment—for ourselves and others. Being centered and well-grounded, we are able to focus on discovering and exploring the needs and desires other not just ourselves. Because they are not distracted by their own self-absorbing thoughts and feelings, centered leaders are more self-aware, able to be better listeners, more engaging and compassionate, more supportive and relationship oriented, more empathetic, and most importantly, we are able form meaningful and real connections alliances with others in tacking touch challenges and doing things that matter (e.g., generating innovative and creative solutions).

In our next post on Human Centered Leadership, we will explore the differences in “leadership” and “authority.” We are interested in your thoughts about Human Centered Leadership. Please share them with us. We are eager to learn from you.

Human Centered Leadership is “inspiring and mobilizing people to tackle tough challenges and do things that matter.”

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