Over the last year I’ve been practicing a new kind of yoga called Yin, a slow and quiet practice that involves holding postures for extended periods of time. Yin yoga targets the connective tissues of the body, and the physical benefits include increased muscle release and mobility of the joints. Rather than striving and working, the teacher encourages us to soften and relax our muscles and really submit to the postures. It’s harder than you might think, because the body resists softening and relaxing; it wants to work and move and fights against letting go and being out of control.
Outside of the physical benefits, I’ve been thinking lately about yin yoga as a metaphor for submission in my life. There are certain things in life I resist or can’t influence or control, and in those situations I try to access the yin mind and my ability to yield and allow things to happen as they will. The most recent personal example I can share was in the fall of 2015 when my husband identified a new job that would require us to move across country. I wasn’t excited about the idea or prepared for the effort and fought its eventuality for a period of time. But there came a point where we agreed that moving was the right choice for our family, and for me it meant stop fighting and submit. This mental shift helped me feel more in control again and less like a victim, and allowed me to get into action with the right next steps (like packing!) to move the family successfully to the new location.
So often in leadership we focus on strength and decisiveness and overlook the softer aspects of being an effective leader. Submission is sometimes perceived as a weak attribute, however, powerful leaders are willing to submit to others for a common goal. Submission is a component of at least three of our most important leadership attributes that we identified in our Leadership Attributes Evaluation:
- Commitment to what needs to be done to achieve our shared vision and goals
- Integrity and unwavering commitment to upholding the core values of the organization
- Responsibility and willingness to take ownership of aspects of the firm that need to be managed and the success and failures of them when they occur
Recognizing that submission is an essential component of leadership can make it easier to do those things the organization asks of us when the need arises. Each of us has self-interest – preferences, desires and visions of where we’d like to be and what we’d like to be doing – but at some point we have to let go of the “I” and comply with the “we.” Doing so requires us to subordinate our own desires to a higher purpose, such as the mission of the entity we work for. Without submission to a shared vision and plan of action, with all oars pulling in the same direction, our entity’s “boat” will never make it to shore.
Leadership teams can help facilitate submission, starting with creating and communicating a vision for the organization. A vision serves as a map to the future and includes the strategies and tactics for arriving there. See our blog entitled Does Your Firm Have a Vision for Its Future for assistance in creating or refining your organization’s vision. Sharing that vision with your team increases team members’ motivation and inspiration to help achieve that vision as they can see clearly how they fit and can contribute within it.
As for what each of us individually can do, we can look for ways to take on certain responsibilities or own important initiatives or functions within our organizations to further its progress. For some of you right now in busy season, that might mean setting aside your self-interest to be with family and friends, and instead working the additional hours necessary to serve the firm’s clients appropriately. Doing so creates satisfied clients, possible client referrals that may lead to new business, and greater earning potential for you and your colleagues through increased firm revenues. For partners nearing retirement, submission can show up as a focus on delegating the work and allowing others to manage relationships that you’ve successfully serviced for the last 30 years. Your choice to delegate and develop others will make it more likely that clients stay with the firm after you retire, securing the firm’s future, and allows you to develop and start taking action on your possibility list for your next chapter in life (read more here about retiring partners developing their possibilities list). For some partners, submission includes achieving your individual goals that contribute to your firm’s strategic plan this year – results that your Managing Partner and partners are counting on. At every level, at each stage of our professional lives, there are opportunities to give up whatever it is we’re resisting to comply and conform to help further our organization’s progress along with our own professional and financial success in the process.
So be decisive, be strong, and blaze your own trail. But consider finding balance in your leadership and discover ways that you can submit to the vision your firm has for itself and for you. What do you need to stop resisting to do so? Where do you see you could submit at work and in your life that would provide peace and access to the results you wish to achieve?