A colleague recently sent me these thoughts and graciously provided permission to post them here at Library Lost & Found:
I just finished “The Beautiful Mystery” by Louis Penny. Good book. I came across this near the end:
One of the elders told him that when he was a boy his grandfather came to him one day and said he had two wolves fighting inside him. One was gray, the other black. The gray one wanted his grandfather to be courageous, and patient, and kind. The other, the black one, wanted his grandfather to be fearful and cruel. ….he asked, ‘Grandfather, which of the wolves will win?’ …
‘Do you know what his grandfather said?’ …
‘The one I feed’
…which made me think about the internal struggle that I feel as a leader, and that I know others face, too: Scrooge vs. Fezziwig*
Being a leader is not easy. The work load can be overwhelming. The personal cost of doing it well can be high (sleep? Exercise? Yeah, maybe next year….). It is so easy, so natural, to feed the dark side…to feed the Scrooge. To become negative and angry. To wish to be somewhere else. To want to go work at Borders (well, when there still were Borders), to be resentful of those around you – of what they are doing, of what they aren’t doing. To see your work as something you have to do, not something you want to do.
I fed the Scrooge for a long time. At the same time, I thought my job as a leader was to put on a positive face for those working with me. How I was feeling didn’t matter. I can still remember, sitting in the car, building up the energy to give them what they needed for another day, while burying the truth and myself.
It was exhausting, and it made me hate being a leader.
What I have come to understand — after a lot of thought and conversation with inspiring people and a lot of tears – is that feeding the Scrooge while putting on a positive face is simply not enough. Not enough for me. Not enough for those around me. The positive has to be deeper than that. Fezziwig must be fed, constantly, by positive people and positive thoughts, by optimism and belief, by truth and self-reflection. By doing the right things for the right reasons. By recognition that many of our problems are “good problems” – problems with solutions that have the potential to create stronger organizations and to help others be successful. By minimizing the bad and always – always – looking for the good. By taking the time to reflect, to learn, to grow, to get help when you need it, to do your best every day, and to know that tomorrow, you’ll do better.
This isn’t to say that there will never be “bad problems”. There will be. You will have to have difficult conversations, make difficult choices. You will cause others pain with your decisions. You will not make everyone happy. You will be sad, defeated, and beat down on occasion.
If you have fed the Scrooge, these moments will only reinforce your perception of your work as being an impossible burden.
If you have fed the Fezziwig, you will have the most important things you can have at those moments – hope and the recognition that things will get better.
*Just in case you are not a fan of Dickens “Christmas Carol”, Fezziwig is the boss of Scrooge when he is young, and is a pretty awesome boss who has a rocking Christmas Eve party for everyone and uses phrases like “Yo ho!” and “Hilli-ho!” . As Scrooge says, “He has the power to render us happy or unhappy; to make our service light or burdensome; a pleasure or a toil. Say that his power lies in words and looks; in things so slight and insignificant that it is impossible to add and count them up: what then. The happiness he gives, is quite as great as if it cost a fortune.”