Leading by Acceptance



“It is what it is.” When you settle for what is, does that work for you, or not?

If you regularly accept less than optimal, what will motivate you to seek the best? If you never accept less than optimal, how much anxious time and energy will you waste? That is the conundrum.

A well-known prayer by Reinhold Niebuhr asks God for “the serenity to accept what cannot be changed, the courage to change what can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

Courage and wisdom we can embrace, but we struggle with acceptance. When a part of life is not working, “serenity to accept” feels too passive to our culture. It feels like an oil slick covering what matters to us, choking out our passion to make a difference.

Yet acceptance is often the foundation from which a leader can inspire curiosity, creativity, and growth. It is from acceptance that you can move past what is not working for you, to find your next steps.

Consider those areas where you are a leader, an influencer. You lead yourself, and a myriad of others in your organization, family, and community. When you are “stewing” on the things you want to change, you are not leading. Not accepting “what is” can often leave you spinning in frustration.

Leadership skill: Lead by Accepting.

Step One: Be brutally honest with yourself. Make a list of all of the things that you truly wish were different. Be specific. Consider the basics like your weight and age. Move toward the more complex like relationships, health, and finances. Do not hesitate to list world problems that weigh on you.

Step Two: Define exactly what acceptance would look and feel like for each point on your list. For example:

  • Your weight. Acceptance means taking a long, realistic look in the mirror and seeing what is really there and choosing to accept, love, and take good care of what you see. It stops the judgment of how you think it should be. It stops the blame of how it got to where it is.
  • The finances (corporate or personal). Acceptance means squarely looking at the truth of how much money is coming in, how much is going out, and where it is going. It recognizes that money is tangible and finite. It stops focusing on “what if’s” and accepts “what is.”

Step Three: Be curious, explore, and discover your options regarding each issue. Make your choices. Make your changes. The underlying rage that shows itself in hand-wringing anxiety shuts down your ability to do that. Acceptance gives it back.

How are you doing, 0 – 10, leading by accepting?

Today, for me, is a 7. I like change, so many of my thoughts involve how I can create something new and better. But I find that when I skip over acceptance, I am left with frustration as my default mode.

Frustration drains energy and stunts creativity.

Be honest with how you are doing leading by accepting. This is not about accepting others; it is about accepting life. Give yourself a number. Then, recognize your impact. How will others know how to accept what needs to be different and focus their energies on creating change, if all they see around them is frustration? Model acceptance – the first step in lasting change.

Posted on August 22, 2018 in Leadership, Vetri Space

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