This guest post was contributed by Paul Chaffee. Paul has worked for over 33 years with the United States Postal Service – playing roles from City Letter Carrier to Senior Leadership Positions in Marketing, Finance, and Post Office Operations. In addition to being a Certified Facilitator with the Extreme Leadership Institute, Paul also runs Psst…Photography and MindsEye Consulting Services in Noblesville, Indiana. Paul and wife Kristina are the proud parents of daughters Ashton and Madison Chaffee, and son Drew Chaffee.
There is an old leadership maxim that says: “People may forget the words you say…but they will never forget the way you made them feel.”
I am a voracious note taker – always have been – but as good as my near verbatim notes may have been in terms of capturing the “words that were used” during The Extreme Leadership Institute event that took place in San Diego on January 12 & 13, 2018… a review of those same notes created an explosion of thoughts, feelings, ideas and memories that I am unlikely to ever forget.
Let me start at the end of the event.
In his closing thoughts, Steve Farber said: “Intellectually, I sort of knew the curriculum would be good – the experience should work – but I was completely unprepared for how it would feel. I’m blown away – but not overwhelmed. I’ve never felt more at ease in front of a group. There’s flow…fluid, unbridled trust in the room – I’m a trusting guy, but this is big.”
So why did I start at the end ?
Because it makes the opening comments so much more clear and meaningful.
Farber spoke of his background – his 30 years in the leadership business and the many mentors and great people he had worked with throughout the years – when the seeds of influence for The Radical LEAP were just starting to germinate – and he found himself asking: “If I could have everybody get “it”…what would “it” be ?”
Cultivate LOVE, Generate ENERGY, Inspire AUDACITY, Require PROOF…for those who are familiar with the content of The Radical LEAP philosophy – those four pillars help to define the Extreme Leadership journey…the “manifesto” of sorts for anyone brave enough and bold enough to step into the leadership arena.
But love. That’s the hot button. That’s the word that can often make people a bit uncomfortable. We want it in every aspect of our life…but for some reason, the word “love” can sometimes be seen as a little “iffy” at work. Not only is the word love not inappropriate, it is necessary. Love of the company, of the people, of the processes, and of the service provided. It was demonstrated in story and in many examples throughout the two-day event that love is just damn good business, and my personal takeaway from the event was that “love” is the “it” that Farber spoke of.
Some come to an event like this to get resourced – to hear or learn something new they weren’t previously aware of. Others come to an event like this to “fill their leadership tank” – getting out of the “whirlwind of work” for a few days and gaining energy, insights, and perspective to take back to their leadership roles and responsibilities at home and at work.
For me, attending this event accomplished both of those items – I have great notes from excellent presentations that I can use as resources going forward. My leadership tank was definitely filled – it was just a remarkable collection of impressive and dedicated people in the room – and it was inspiring to be so drawn to the competency and commitment demonstrated by those around me. But I will never forget the intense feeling of personal responsibility to go forth from here and “do leadership” very intentionally in the moments, days, weeks, months, and years ahead – loving people and their truths where they are – and not just where I hope or expect them to be in the moment.
In the days that followed the event, the beautiful San Diego shoreline provided a perfect backdrop for a calming leadership metaphor that I will use to turn my leadership intentions into actions for a long time to come.
As the Pacific Ocean rolled up onto the beach, the waves formed a beautiful cadence of continuity – they rolled in, they crashed into the beach, they came up onto the sand – first in a rush, but eventually slowing down and thinning out…and then they would recede. They always would recede. And then the next one would roll in – and that predictable cycle would continue.
In my mind, this beautiful calming cadence is not unlike the leadership journey that lies ahead of me. There will always be waves…some stronger, some less powerful – but there will always be waves. And sometimes, the water will come up on the beach a little farther than I expect…and maybe linger a little longer than I thought it would…but it will always reach that point where it stops forging forward…it pauses…and then it recedes back toward the ocean – smoothing the beach sand as it goes back to the source.
Will I be as wise in those leadership moments as I need to be? Will I respond with love to the strength of the waves that await me? Will I be patient enough to “ride out” the surge that comes up onto my beach for as long as necessary? Will I leave a “smoothed out beach” relationally as the situation calms – and then recedes – as it always does? My desire and my intention to lead in this way has never been greater.
I will continue to “lead with love” in my own personal leadership journey whether it is easy or not in the moment. To do so only when it is easy is to not be a leader. You can “say love” or you can “show love”…I will show love, and l will leave the smoothest and most beautiful beach in my leadership wake in the future.
I am honored to be a part of such a beautiful community of skilled, accomplished, and intentional leaders, and I am thankful for the opportunity to be, to demonstrate, and to share what it means to be an Extreme Leader.
Thank you to Steve Farber for your life’s work in changing the world. Sometimes, things happen over a long period of time – all of the sudden…and it seems that the mission you’ve been on for the past 30 years – especially since writing The Radical LEAP – is more relevant today than ever before.
Authors write words. Speakers give presentations. Your gift is that you make the concept of “leading with love” feel real and feel possible. Thank you for sharing that gift with us all, Steve.