Leadership Qualities: Celebrate the Circle of Life.

Morgan State University Graduate 2019 – Elijah Cummings

Effective leaders understand that the keys to success are found in celebrating the circle of life.  

So, when a leader is called to encourage his or her community when they face a crossroad, every word spoken is carefully weighed to direct the future. Such was Rep. Elijah Cummings’ opening remarks as he spoke to the 2019 graduating class of Morgan State University in his hometown of Baltimore, Maryland. The words encapsulated the circle of life.

“We seldom achieve anything meaningful in life by our own efforts alone.”

(Cummings, 2019, 9:22-11:04 mins.).

The circle of life is commonly described as,

“Nature’s way of taking and giving back life to earth. It symbolizes the universe being sacred and divine. It represents the infinite nature of energy, meaning if something dies it gives new life to another.”

(Collins Dictionary, 2019; https://www.collinsdictionary.com/submission/6884/Circle+of+life).

Successful leaders know how to transition their teams through the circle of life, especially through seasons of grief by pointing to future joys.  Oftentimes we look to the sages among us to find answers to the adversities that we face.  Why?  Because we consider them experts in facing adversity.  

Research by psychologist Anders Ericsson suggests that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert in your field (Bradley, 2012; https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20121114-gladwells-10000-hour-rule-myth).  So, given that there are 365 days in a year, let’s say that we battle adversity for one hour every day.  At that rate, it would take us approximately 27.4 years to become experts.  If we spend only 15 minutes each day, a quarter of the hour, then it would take about 110 years to become an expert.  Conversely, if we spend 4 hours per day fighting adversity then we would only need 7 years to become a young sage.  

So, there is great wisdom in a leader who builds on the accummulated expertise of his or her team as they navigate the circle of life together, especially when facing adversity.

Life is a series of celebrations and sorrows.  But, especially this week, as we celebrate the lives and the accomplishments of loved ones that we have lost, especially the ones that we consider to be national heroes (like Elijah Cummings; and, Jamaican heroes Marcus Garvey, Alexander Bustamante and Nanny), let us not forget that their past successes serve to inspire us to future victories, personal and also professional ones.  

Harrison Ford demonstrates this well at the homegoing celebration of his lifelong friend, Whitney Houston.  After he shares memories that have solidified to temper the burden of his grief, he turns his community’s attention to the future and the dreams of other little girls like Whitney, reconnecting the community to the circle of life (15:32-16:18 mins.).

Kevin Costner’s emotional speech in full at Whitney Houston’s funeral

So, assess your situation well.  Recognize that sorrow is a part of the circle of life, then use it to position you for the next mountain to be scaled.  Wonderful lessons can be learned from athletes who lose one race and go on to win the next championship at http://www.indusedu.org/pdfs/IJRESS/IJRESS_876_93216.pdf and more at http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/KeishaAMitchellPhD .

And, no matter where you are and what you face, never forget the power of music to comfort the weary soul and anchor you to the circle of life.

Whitney Houston and Michele Lamar Richards – Jesus Loves Me (from The Bodyguard).

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