Avoiding Soul Insanity

Monday, October 29th found me in Nyack, NY waiting for the arrival of Hurricane  Sandy.  As the day went on, the wind picked up, the chimney in the old brick house I was in along the Hudson River rumbled, and the trees swayed.  Power went off twice that afternoon and each time came back on within 20 minutes.  At 6 pm the power went off – the wind started screaming and howling, the trees bent to the ground, and Sandy was here.  I taught the group in a circle of candlelight.  When a power substation or transformer would blow, we’d watch through the windows as blue balls of flame and light illuminated the dark and stormy skies.  Only then could we see the ferocious wind bending  trees to the ground.  The light show over, we would turn back to the discussion.  At 10 pm, I slid into a bed in the third story of the house as the hurricane roared.  Tuesday morning we woke to trees downed on power lines, uprooted along the river, and I found myself grateful for the protection God had provided.   When I was able to get out to the Newark airport on Thursday, the power was still off at the house on the river.

This was one of those years in our lives when the trials and struggles felt much like a hurricane.  As the winds of the storm batter our lives, we find the grace of God in the midst of it all.  In April my father went home to be with Jesus and we spent the summer helping my mother, who has dementia, move into assisted living.  Our daughter’s inoperable brain tumor spawned side effects around the same time, and the force of the hurricane winds seemed unending.  But God was faithful in the midst of it all, with many answered prayers.

Over this year, we have felt our priorities shifting.  Dan Webster, founder of Authentic Leadership, has been a strong influence in my life and and he says:  A lack of quiet in a man or woman’s life slowly leads to a condition of soul insanity.  There are things that God does in the heart of a leader that only get done in quiet.  So I have decided to take a “sabbatical” from December 14th –January 9th.   In order for me to be able to slow down, reflect, and relax, I will not be checking work email during that time period, nor answering any phone calls.  In fact, because I anticipate over 2500 emails when I return, I’ll simple delete them all and start over.  I suspect that making that commitment is the only way I’ll not be tempted to check email.

We are thankful for God’s real and loving presence in the midst of this year and are grateful for all we have experienced and been given.  We pray that you will trust God for holy courage as you experience the storms of life.  He is faithful.

Soul Insanity

One of my favorite thought leaders is Dan Webster.  Dan was at the forefront of leadership authenticity – long before Lencioni or Maxwell got in the game.  Two of his thoughts have resonated with me over the last 12 years and they keep popping back up in my mind just when I need them.  In this blog, I’ll address the first one.

“The absence of quiet in a man or woman’s life slowly leads to a state of soul insanity.”

 That one sentence is filled with such truth.  On the days when I skip my morning quiet time, the day just doesn’t go as well.  It’s a lesson I’ve learned over and over, and gradually I’m becoming better about not letting something take its place.  When I fail to slow down, I lose touch with who I am and I lose the ability to resonate with others.  As a result, I lose my ability to influence – to lead.

Research has shown that when we are under stress we default to a leadership style that is dissonant – resulting in a lack of trust, burn out, anger and frustration among those we lead.  Slowing down – keeping our soul sanity – helps us be resonant leaders who are known for collaboration, trust, empathy and the ethical use of power. 

 If we want to lead others, we must first lead ourselves.  It’s a matter of integrity.