The Courage to Belong No Place

“You are only free when you realize you belong no place—you belong every place—no place at all. The price is high. The reward is great,” Maya Angelou told Bill Moyers in a 1973 interview.  

As a leader, you may find yourself toeing the line between fear and courage.  As Angelou teaches, mustering the vigor to “belong no place” is both challenging and fulfilling work.  It requires vulnerability, conviction in your values, and resilience to bounce back from your mistakes.  While there is no singular roadmap to connect you with your authentic leadership style, below are a few methods to help you chart your own course.

  1. Do a values audit. To lead a team with integrity, consistent leaders work to align their words and actions.  As a first step to driving alignment, facilitate a values audit.  In Jay Shetty’s book, Think Like a Monk, he suggests doing a values audit by taking inventory of how you spend your time.  

For one week, document how you spend your time each day.  At the end of the week, take stock of which categories consumed the majority of your time. Which values do they represent? If you want to emanate different values than those on your list, clarify which ones you’d like to cultivate and then transform how you spend your time.

  1. Try a new skill.  Resilience is a learned practice. To be resilient, you must first take a risk and work through the struggle.  Try practicing a new skill (within or outside of work) that places you in your “challenge zone.” Stick with it for at least 6 weeks. As you near the end of the challenge, reflect on the experience. What was it like? What was difficult? Where did you fail? What do you wish you had done differently? How does this learning apply to other areas of your life or leadership? Through this exercise you’ll build both resiliency and confidence – lending inspiration to your team and trust within yourself.
  1. Make gratitude a daily habit. Studies show that practicing gratitude can improve your relationships and reduce stress while increasing your physical and mental well-being. Expressing gratitude to your team can also increase their levels of motivation and confidence.  Here are 40 ways to make gratitude a daily practice. Bonus: facilitate a gratitude exercise with your team – at the end of each week, create space for your team to give each other thanks for work well done.
  1. Cultivate self-awareness. Heightening awareness of your emotions, behaviors, and mental patterns is a life-long process. In order to feel more grounded and behave in alignment with your values, practice a few exercises each month to drive introspection. These can range from meditation, gathering feedback from friends and family, and reflecting on what makes you angry. This is hard work, so try to maintain a sense of levity and curiosity throughout your introspective journey. Explore ways to build self-awareness here.  
  1. Practice self-compassion. Being a leader means making hard decisions and taking calculated risks… not all of which result in successful outcomes. Our brains are hard-wired for negativity bias which sometimes leads your inner critic to bully you for less-than-ideal results.  This negative self-talk can feel demoralizing and perpetuate anxiety, avoidance, and frustration. The next time you can sense stress rising, try practicing self-compassion. 

Finding the courage to belong “no place” within yourself is the key to authentic leadership.  Take risks, forgive yourself for mistakes, lean into your values, and above all, stay curious!

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