Created to Create

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Recently while teaching a class of eager college students, one young person stated unapologetically and in no uncertain terms his belief that, “We were created to create.” His rather emphatic statement sparked a great discussion, including the question about purpose. While it is not so surprising that a group of college students in a World Religions course would erupt into serious discussion around purpose or why any of us are here in the first place, it is very interesting that more and more corporate executives are landing on this precise question – “What is My Purpose?”

The fact is many executives are not only seriously considering the question, but also understanding the connection between purpose and superior results. Even more interesting, a recent article in the Harvard Business Review suggested that clarity of purpose fueled by courageous pursuit tops the list of the most important priorities in leadership development. Truthfully, this helps me breathe a sigh of relief, as I have been helping others find purpose professionally and personally for as long as I can remember – long before I myself embraced true purpose and took courage to make a career change after two decades in the practice of law. That said, it seems only fitting that today I address the issue of purpose since I am preparing in a few short weeks to lead a group of University professionals down the path of answering this very question.

Have you ever found yourself asking the question, “Am I fulfilling the purpose for which I was called and created?” Don’t make the mistake of thinking you are in this world by accident or that you were not uniquely designed to fulfill a particular purpose. There is a reason for your existence, and it is the privilege of each of us to find our road to purpose.

Perhaps you have asked yourself the question over and over again with few answers. Like my students, I suggest it is a question greater than you and best left to the Creator. But there are a few things you might consider. Have you slowed down long enough to hear your life’s call? Sometimes the key is in quietly shutting out the noise of life so that you might hear what life is saying. Don’t be afraid to look back over your life. Life really does speak. Look at the places you frequent, the things outside of you that bring you joy, the kind of people and things that draw you as well as the people and things to which you are drawn. Volunteer your time giving back; get involved in a project about which you have great passion or concern. Listen, listen, listen, and listen even more. Get in the habit of listening for life at all times. Listen to conversations you have with others; listen to the conversations you have with yourself; and listen to the conversations between others. Life’s goal is not to hide your purpose. Rather, it is to call you and then usher you into purpose. Your responsibility is to get into a place where you can absolutely hear the call.

Ask, seek, knock, listen, and when life speaks be prepared to take up the challenge life places before you. Become a more critical thinker, and give your best to each day life gives you. Expand your dialogue with others, and do not be afraid to ask (of those you trust) what they see in you understanding you were Created to Create.

williams_geneace09_v3  Until Next Time, Best Wishes on the Journey, Dr. G

copyright © 2015 Geneace Williams

The Good In Giving

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At some point in life, most of us are tempted to become weary in well-doing. The weary temptation may be especially true in the lives of those who have given unselfishly in a life of service to others. You might want to know how long it will take before you experience the breakthrough that you have been seeking. Despite the lure, you must hold fast and not give in to the weariness temptation. It is true we reap what we sow, and it is more blessed to give than to receive.

Perhaps it is time for those of us who are known by the title leader to view giving and serving through a different lens. Instead of viewing giving from the perspective of how much we are blessing someone else through our gift, it might be more fruitful to consider the ability to give as a gift itself. In that way, giving would be as much a blessing to the giver as it is to the recipient.  In other words, if we look at the opportunity and privilege of giving as a gift to the giver, it could positively impact our thinking about the value in giving or the value in doing good.

Expressed another way, gratitude has been defined as thankfulness or the state of being grateful. Most often, however, it is a response to having been the recipient of something tangible. Yet, there is another way in which to consider the significance of gratitude. What if we were more grateful for the opportunity and privilege of being able to give and make a difference in the lives of others? I imagine it could transform the source of our joy. After all, transforming our source of joy could very well lead to a greater sense of gratitude.  Recognizing the gift inherent in giving speaks volumes about the true nature of gratitude.

williams_geneace09_v3 Until Next Time, Best Wishes on the Journey, Dr. G

copyright © 2015 Geneace Williams

“In Spite Of”

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Last weekend I didn’t publish a blog post, as I had the privilege of being a presenter/facilitator at the Faculty Women of Color in the Academy (FWCA) National Conference at my two-time Alma Mater – The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Because the conference committee had experienced more than a few challenges while organizing the event, the accomplished, yet humble, powerhouse event Chair opened the conference with a very fitting theme – “In Spite Of.” Dr. Menah Pratt-Clark, Associate Chancellor at the University of Illinois, Associate Professor, and fellow graduate of Leadership Illinois, recalled a few of the difficulties the committee had faced but quickly followed with her “In Spite Of” theme acknowledging that in the face of complications more than three hundred registrants had indeed gathered to share experiences, learn, and develop bonds with others who are faculty and/or administrators at institutions of higher learning from across this country – “In Spite Of.”

When Dr. Pratt-Clark opened the Conference, what she did not know is that I had experienced my own set of challenges prior to arriving in Champaign to lead my afternoon sessions on Values Driven Leadership. Indeed I had done my homework and prepared for this conference, of which I was so proud to be a part. But truthfully, the night before I did not know for certain if I would make it to Champaign.  In fact, I had been up the entire night with an emergency at my home as a result of the torrential rains and high winds we had experienced that day. The maintenance person from the one company I could find to show up in the middle of the night didn’t leave my home until 6:00 am.  I had not packed one thing and for certain (or so I thought) was not ready to stand on my feet for hours leading workshops for which I knew the participants had previously paid and more than likely carried high expectations. Needless to say, I was more than exhausted and running on empty. Just thinking about it again reminds me of how life will throw you a curve ball and then provide what you need to turn that curve ball on its head – and just when you need it. My very, very dear friend and colleague who was accompanying me to the conference relieved a bit of the burden when she volunteered to do the driving to and from Champaign. What an on time blessing and the first of many for this weekend. I could at least get an hour or so of sleep – even if it was sitting upright in a car.

In Spite Of

Because of our delay in getting on the road, we arrived at the conference only minutes before the scheduled opening plenary.  But when Dr. Pratt-Clark approached the podium and began to recite how the committee had overcome every obstacle to get us to the opening session I was energized by her very thought – “In Spite Of.” It made me think of not just the night before, but also the many times in my life where I showed up to do a job – In Spite Of. In spite of challenges, setbacks, naysayers, and doubters and even sometimes with doubts of my own, I was, am, and have been an overcomer. And I write today to inspire and encourage you to stay in the game of your life – In Spite Of. If you have a dream, goal, desire, wish, or challenge for that matter, now is a great time to make up in your mind that In Spite Of the challenges, or whatever, you might face you can achieve exactly what you set out to accomplish – if you persevere and stay in the game. All of us have experienced moments of despite, however, but, spite, and although.  In Spite Of those moments, however, you have the ability to overcome, which reminds me of a post I wrote not so long ago on adversity and resilience.

In that post, I wrote that adversity is necessary, as learning, growth and progress are its offspring.   And there is no requirement that adversity be the enemy many of us were taught it to be.   Adversity is opportunity wrapped in different packaging.  It is teacher, and classroom all rolled into one.  What I like most about adversity is given the chance it can become the precursor to resilience.  Adversity is like a force that presses against you to hold you down or push you back.   But my friends in the world of psychotherapy have taught me that resilience is the ability to be knocked down but get back up again knowing in the cycle of life adversity is sure to come.

There is no doubt in my mind that I was knocked down for a brief moment this past week. But as a woman of faith who had done the work necessary to be my best me at the FWCA Conference – In Spite Of – the night before (and life’s challenges in general) I was able “to get up” and One More Time be an overcomer and “deliver” to the point of making a difference in the lives of others. (And that’s really all that counts.) The kindness and generosity of the conference organizers and my friend made a difference. Moreover, I was humbled by the extraordinarily positive responses and feedback of conference participants. I knew then without doubt that a force much greater than me had once again taken me beyond me. Whatever you might be experiencing in your life as you travel on the road toward fulfilling your dreams, remember – you too can be an overcomer (and perhaps you already are) In Spite Of.

williams_geneace09_v3    Until Next Week, Best Wishes on the Journey, Dr. G

Copyright 2015 Geneace Williams

Are You Thirsty?

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“Sometimes we have to be thirsty to crucify

the things in life that prevent us from achieving our greatness.”

Geneace Williams

This is Easter Weekend, and many are busy with plans for spending time with family and friends, including a Sunday meal complete with family favorites.  Scores of churches have participated in Lenten Season activities that will culminate in a grand Easter celebration.  Last night I had the privilege of participating with six other ministers in a 7 Last Words service.  Each person was given a limited time to speak on his or her particular word, representing what is recorded as one of the last 7 sayings of Christ.  My task was to speak on the 5th Word from the Cross – I Thirst.  As you are no doubt aware, a thirst relates to a desire for something to drink in order that the thirst will be quenched.

Speaking on the thought – I Thirst – brought to mind its applicability to our daily lives.  For what are you thirsty?  Are you thirsty for your life’s purpose, thirsty to find your place in the world, thirsty to do what it takes to realize your life’s dreams?  Are you thirsty to tap into life at a whole new level – allowing you to achieve well beyond your greatest imagination?  And are you thirsty to crucify the things in your life that have heretofore stood in the way of your progress?

Many people dream about achieving great things in life; and dreams require dedication, discipline, time, and effort.  Hardly a dream to accomplish something significant will come to fruition without the work necessary to bring it to pass.  That means – life requires a real thirst for what we desire to accomplish, a passion if you will.  A strong thirst drives us to meet the desired outcome with the ‘work’ of our hands.  Today my wish for you is simple – to encourage you to find your life’s passion, feed it with hard work and dedication, and go after exactly what you believe you were placed on this earth to accomplish.

williams_geneace09_v3 Until next week, best wishes on your journey, Dr. G

Copyright © 2015 Geneace Williams

An Age-Old Truth!

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Last week, I started on a journey to offer insight on Leadership as Process.  I suggested that whether you are a born leader or were born to lead, all leaders experience transformation on some level.  Thus, I maintained leaders are “formed for success” from the inside  out.

As I set down this week to deliver on my promise to further discuss Leadership as Process, I recalled the words of my friend – “all of life is a process.”  In turn, I thought perhaps it would be beneficial to begin by delving a bit deeper into what Process – in this context – really means.  Process, I contend, is a series of specific actions that produce or lead to a particular outcome.  The same can be said of leadership; how far you are able to go and what you are able to accomplish depends largely on knowing your desired outcome, charting the course to reach your ultimate goal, and taking the necessary steps to get there. Process is action oriented and outcomes driven.  In other words, Process has an end in mind. At the same, time, it is characteristically dynamic – suggesting that Process in Leadership is not static but nimble enough to withstand corrective measures when necessary.

In preparing this week’s post, I thought about what this all means in real life application and immediately remembered my many years of experience as a litigator.  Whenever I started with a new case, I would sit with my case, study it inside and out, develop a litigation strategy, and outline specific steps to follow with one – and only one – goal in mind – winning.  To win as a leader, I propose, requires a System or Process by which you choose to live and operate.  That system or process is essential in the lives of leaders, as it becomes formation in action.

In that way, Leadership is a Process of formation.  It is individual, inside out work that develops, shapes, changes, refines, reforms, transforms, molds, and prepares. Unlike external work, which is temporal, true formation work lasts, as the internal is infinite.  That is – true formation is transforming and transformative.  It is an outgrowth of a continual and critical model of self and life reflection that will provide you an opportunity to learn as well as grow. In short, the greatest leaders understand they are shaped for the better by life’s experiences—something I term experiential formation.

Experiential formation teaches experience is life’s greatest instructor. But experience can be the best teacher only when we learn the lesson an experience was designed to teach. Nothing happens in life apart from experience. Often whether young or more mature we become our expe­rience—good, bad, or indifferent, as experience shapes, forms, and reforms, and life is made up of a series of experiences.

One of the many experiences you may encounter as a leader in the formation process involves what may feel like moments of exile. Resist the temptation to define yourself by your exile.  Understand your response while in exile will character­ize you. Be assured that wilderness moments are temporary.  Wisely use your time to traverse the rough places in ways that foster and encourage listening, learning, and growing.  Understand the power, meaning, and depth of transformation that is often commu­nicated in the whispers of the quiet, and avoid the temptation to run, sprint, jog, or dart from the very idea of spending time alone. Rather, comprehend the value that is gained for your journey during the quiet and time of reflection.

Evaluate life expe­riences as well as how you respond to them as a means of better understanding behaviors, patterns, growth (or lack thereof), and opportunities for further development in your walk as a leader. The result, I hope, will be that you come to appreciate that wise leaders use their experience as a catalyst for growth and development. They understand the value in lessons learned and turn tragedies into triumphs and testimonies to encourage others on their own roads of life.  This I would offer is the dynamic aspect of “Process” mentioned earlier.

Process Arrows

In truth, wise leaders leverage experience for a greater good and view the setback as a setup allowing them the opportunity to operate in an even greater space and pave the way for exponential impact. Unfortunately, absent close assessment, experiences are often repeated because the intended lesson has gone un-interpreted. The value of expe­rience can often be gained only through close and critical examination, and the greatest leaders allow their experiences to aid them on the inside out journey of becoming even greater contributors in the lives of others.

Thus, Leadership as Process requires we each take steps similar to those I took for years preparing to win a case… Sit with life, study and understand who you are and your specific goals for your life as leader. Develop a strategy for where you want to go along with the specific steps you will follow to get there.  Take the twists and turns of experience as a teacher in the refining process, and never be afraid to begin again.  As I suggested last week – Everything Begins With a Start…

Until Next Week, Best Wishes On the Journey… Dr. G

williams_geneace09_v3  Dr. Geneace Williams, Esq.

Excerpts borrowed with permission from Leadership DASH: Breaking Through the Finish Line by: Geneace Williams.

Original Copyright © 2013 Geneace Williams.                                                        Edited Edition Copyright © 2015

Leadership – “InSide Out”

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For those who regularly read my blog posts about leadership and life, you know I am often inspired around life’s deepest ‘matters’ by the energy and power derived through engagement and dialogue with others. And this week is no different, as I was inspired while having my annual birthday lunch with a friend. She gave me a simple reminder that sent me on a “thought binge” about leadership and growth. You should also know that I highly value the strength in living and “leading” a fully integrated life. Here is what my friend said to me: “all of life is a process.” Immediately, I thought about Leadership and the value in viewing Leadership as “Process.” As such, my wish for you is that over these next two Weekly Wisdom Blog posts you will be able to further glean how you can apply this teaching to your life while connecting leadership to core values and actions that create great leaders.

In full disclosure, the conversation with my friend reminded me of a piece I wrote not so long ago on leadership and formation and the critical connection through a process often termed trans-formation. Not so ironically, I was also reminded of last week’s post entitled Living Your Legacy, which highlighted Five Living Essentials for creating a life-transforming legacy to impact the lives of others.  Indeed, the components of The Five Essentials are a part of the theory of formation I discuss this week.  Here I share portions of the former writing on formation, which views leadership as an important Inside-Out “Process.” I invite you to continue to analyze the many facets of leadership as we grow together.

Here is Part I:

The question was once asked – are leaders born, or can one learn to lead?  I contend there is truth in both camps.  But whether you are a born leader or born to lead, you must experience transformation on some level in order to be an effective leader.  In my work with leaders from many walks of life, I always suggest the best leaders are formed to meet success.

Formation is a kind of re-formation that leads to trans-formation.  In other words, formation is serious business that requires you to abandon comfort for tough internal work that promises to challenge your thinking and prepare you to operate at a different level. You will know you are ready for formation work when you are equipped to confront the possibilities that exist beyond your level of comfort and are willing to embrace the fact that positive change presup­poses confronting your growing edges. Likewise the leader who desires authentic and transforming growth is primed to resist the temptation to remain or become anesthetized by life’s challenges and/or its successes. Instead they are motivated to move as if life itself is depending on their will­ingness to pursue the journey of growth called formation.

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Formation is a moral imperative both in life and leader­ship. As such, true formation work is a prompter inviting you down the path of setting values and ethical boundaries by which you will live and lead. It is a dynamic, continual process fueled by receipt of input and feedback, both inter­nal and external, and it requires responding in an active manner.  In essence, it is a journey that occurs over time.

Formation happens at the point of intersection between intentionality and authen­ticity, two of the five living essentials discussed in last week’s blog. Intentional leaders concern themselves with who they are and the path they travel. An authentic leader is genuine beyond the surface and ever seeking her true self while working to live a purposed life shaped by a personal philosophy of integrity. With crucial ties to integrity, moral consciousness and ethical patterns are the rules of law in formation. Said another way, rules of law are standards and boundaries by which one chooses to live, and the work of formation suggests integrity, honesty, morality, virtue, honor, and service.

With these opening thoughts on the critical nature of formation in leadership, I will pick up next week with more in reference to Leadership as Process, but first I invite you to challenge yourself to do the following over the next few days:

  • Identify an area in your life wherein you desire to or know it would be beneficial for you to grow.
  • Focus on that one area over the next week.
  • Identify at least one thing you will do intentionally to spark growth in this area of your life.  Don’t be afraid to set your bar high. As I often say, you must abandon comfort to experience the extraordinary.
  • Once you have set your goal, begin your work, and remember – EVERYTHING BEGINS WITH A START…

williams_geneace09_v3    Until next week, Best Wishes on the Journey! Dr. G

Excerpts borrowed with permission from Leadership DASH: Breaking Through the Finish Line by: Geneace Williams.

Original Copyright © 2013 Geneace Williams.                                                   Edited Edition Copyright © 2015

Living Your Legacy

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In life, we often hear talk of legacy associated with a famous person who has passed on. For a longtime now, however, I have contemplated the question of legacy, spoken on legacy, and written about it.  In conversations with clients and those I have the privilege of mentoring, I am certain to ask – “What impact do you desire to have achieved once your work on earth is done?”  And I personally practice what I preach by asking myself the legacy question at the conclusion of my work with others. It goes something like this, “What value did I add that is certain to outlive the work I have done here?”  I ask these questions not to focus on the accomplishments of the leader.  Rather, the impetus for such questions is to turn the attention toward the people a leader has the chance to impact.  In other words, what have you done with the gift of opportunity to positively impact the lives of others – both now and into the future?

After a recent speaking engagement, I was humbled to hear one of the leaders in the room comment openly on how she had been helped when I raised the legacy question with her in preparation for her move into the role of President for the organization.   Frankly, her critique of the value of being asked the legacy question “up front” inspired this week’s discussion.

Truthfully, when I first embraced the idea of legacy leadership as a tool in my work, it was a lot like talking about legacy after a person had passed on, as it was an “after the fact” question.  Conversely, in more recent times, I have been able to help others experience the greater value of asking and answering the legacy question at the point of engagement, instead of at the end.  This path allows others a more clear opportunity to set specific goals on approaching an assignment in a manner that will yield the greatest impact in the lives of others.

Beyond simply asking the legacy question, specific action steps are necessary.  There are, I argue, five action steps or better Five Living Essentials for creating a life-transforming legacy to powerfully impact the lives of others.  I call them the Five Living Essentials because they must come alive and be lived in order to make a real difference.  You might want to jot them down for personal application.

Legacy

Intentionality – Intentionality in leadership means you approach leadership intending to achieve something great. You do nothing by accident; rather, you operate from a well thought out and written strategy and plan of action.  In other words, the best leaders live with purpose.  The intentional leader searches to find the precise reason they live on this earth and are deliberate about the journey to achieve just that.  When intention meets purpose, it sets the stage for transformation, and authentic leadership is born from life’s transformational moments.

Authenticity – Authentic leaders are true to the person they say they are and practice ‘what you see is what you get’ type leadership.   These leaders refuse to profess one lifestyle while living another.   As such, authentic leaders immerse themselves in self-awareness and self-development and emerge more mature with the ability to remove the masks that prevent them from walking in purpose and developing into the unique persons they were intended to be.  As an authentic leader, you will ably express vulnerability thus inspiring others to do the same.  In fact, authentic leaders admit wrong and embrace change.  Instead of simply imitating others, authentic leaders boldly live life as they were created to live.  In doing so, these leaders are more capable of being their true selves with others.

Transparency – Transparent leaders operate from a place that allows the light of their innermost selves to be seen by others, as they are marked by the uncanny ability to be candid and open with self and others.  In short, authenticity is about self-awareness and self-development while transparency is more about self-disclosure or self-expression that allows others to see your true person.  In other words, transparent leaders reveal self in new stratospheres.

Influence – Influence carries the power to produce results, and the most influential leaders realize they both influence and are influenced by others.  Influence is an ethical question about you as a leader knowing and understanding your power to influence or be influenced in an ethical manner.  Power is simply possessing authority, but influence is the ‘know how’ in using power to achieve good.  As such, you strive to know those who are within your sphere of influence and understand you often influence just because you hold the title leader.

Impact – Leaders of impact drive to make a difference in the lives of others.  They are driven by the very possibility of leaving behind for future leaders valuable lessons that will cause them to also become leaders of impact.  Influence is about how a leader uses power.  On the other hand, impact is the result of powerfully using influence in an ethical manner.

In whatever role you work, live, or play, it takes all of these elements to create legacy, and to be distinguished as a leader.  Which elements have you already embraced?  Which ones do you yet have to adopt?  What will be your legacy?

williams_geneace09_v3 Until Next Week, Best Wishes on the Journey, Dr. G

Copyright © 2015 Geneace Williams