Leadership in a word: Scars
“Turn your scars into stars” - Robert H. Schuller
A WORD ABOUT SCARS In “The Odyssey,” there is a scene that takes place near the end of the story. Odysseus returns home after many years of wandering. He is in disguise as an old man. At first, nobody recognizes him, not even his wife and child. One night before bed, Odysseus’ aged nurse bathes him. At first, she thinks he is just a stranger, but while bathing him, she recognizes a scar on his leg. She remembers the scar from infancy. Until she saw the scar she did not recognize him.
Hang around in leadership long enough and you will come to know about scars. It’s not something you hear a lot about when starting out in your professional life although you should. We tend to start out wide-eyed and ready to take the world by storm.
But along the way, all the things that you weren’t taught in your MBA classes and elsewhere introduce you to the realities of leadership. Life happens. People disappoint. You experience a few failures. Loneliness sets in. You second guess yourself. Your blinders come off as you’ve been properly introduced to the real world. Can you relate?
But in as much as we can accumulate scars through the school of hard knocks in leadership, not all are the by-product of negative experiences. Often time scars are from tenacity - staying in the fight, not giving up, and persevering in the face of adversity. Great leaders are known for this. Think for a moment about your own leadership journey. While scars can be painful, you’d probably not be where you are today without them. Yet over the years, I’ve seen scars do leaders in - the pain was too much. Here I’d like to offer a word of hope and these reminders. SCARS ARE A SIGN OF HEALING
I read something very interesting about scars. It stated, “A scar is a mark left on the skin after a wound or injury has healed. Scars are a natural part of the healing process.” And this is where many in life and leadership miss the process. A scar is not an open or active wound - it’s a healed one.
Sometimes in life and in leadership, we thwart the healing process regarding the battles we’ve gone through. When we hold onto our hurts with unforgiveness, bitterness, or anger, the wound can never heal.
You can be a leader with scars and move on or you can be a leader holding onto wounds. SCARS ARE A SIGN OF YOUR PASSION
When you’ve found your passion - your one thing - it will motivate you to stay in the fight when others walk away. It will cause you to refocus your energies. It will keep you up late at night and cause you to rise early. Because of it, you will learn to give up the good to chase after the great.
Years ago in high school, I worked at a garden center. The winter months were brutal. But it was during this time we built the greenhouses and spent those cold days potting roses. Thousands of roses. Our cold and bloodied hands bore the scars of the hard work that went into a prosperous and beautiful spring. Scars were part of the price we paid to enjoy that beauty.
Your scars in leadership prove your passion. They are signs of your willingness to go above and beyond to reach your goals.
As a leader, see your scars for what they are - proof that you have skin in the game and that you will fight for what you believe in. SCARS ARE A SIGN OF YOUR STRENGTH
Whether it’s in your everyday life or more specifically in your leadership role, no one likes the situations that bring scars. They hurt. We feel the sting of disappointment, failures, betrayals, and what about that difficult boss you have to deal with?
Over time, these life experiences don’t just cut us but they can scar us. The question then is about our response. Are we going to let it define us or prepare us? Are we going to get bitter or better? We have a choice to make.
I can look back at some of my most painful scars and see it now from a different perspective that only time allows. While the experience was painful at the time, I can now see where it prepared me and made me a stronger leader as a result.
You haven’t come this far in your journey because you are weak, you are here because you are strong. You have the scars to prove it. A FINAL WORD
Most every leader I know has scars. What about you? Leadership will present you with challenges you didn’t anticipate. You will acquire some scars along the way. But your scars are reminders that you have healed, they are reminders of your passion, and a testament to your strength.
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