leadership from the back of the room

by rebecca on February 8, 2017

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I am a planner.

My husband is not.

This is the magic upon which our marriage is made.

It is also a recipe for years decades of frustration, tears, and fights. Marriage is made of tiny moments.

leaf and mud for blog

I am a list maker. In the bathroom drawer live dozens of lists on heavy card stock so they will stand the test of time. I saved stacks of receipts and counted every cost because I am a saver.

My husband eats all the chips I pack for the weekend on Wednesday because there’s always a store and “We can buy more.” We could buy more, and chips make a fun crunch in the car.

But for a list maker and preparer like me, I liked to leave the house fully stocked. There was conflict between us because I was always trying to control an uncontrollable situation.

hanging pods for blog

It felt like ice melting. Which makes me think that all the years I was after him to eat less and save more it must have felt like ice freezing. Like I was the human storm, exhaling ice breath down his neck. Next to him at night while we ate dinner at the end of a long day. “You’re having seconds?” came my polar ice cap voice, rather than the invitation it could have been. “You bought a new shirt?” ice storm freeze out as he leaves for work rather than the warmth in the hug I longed to offer so he knows he looks good to me.

I don’t feel old yet, but I have regrets now.

Today, instead of a tortilla, my husband is choosing to have a bed of greens. There is a rigor to this stage of life. Our bodies demand it, but our hearts long for it as well. There is spaciousness after the kids leave.

Sometimes I feel like the boss of the century. “We started a minute late,” I say at our meeting. Who made me queen bee? So then I shrink. Hide in the back. But that doesn’t work either, because I’m standing in the back and no one is leading.

You know where it really doesn’t work? In my family. In my family when I shrank into the background because I thought I shouldn’t be the queen bee…because I thought, My husband is tired of hearing me nag, my children are teenagers and trying out personalities of their own. These were the years my family wavered.

Perhaps it is the natural rhythm. I watch those birds and the parent birds are chasing the babies out of the nest, literally tossing them out. I was physically incapable of that. The best I could do was to stand down. To stand at the back of the room in every way.

Now I am back in front and remembering that is where I am strong. But it’s weird. It’s like watching myself up there and noticing that I am bossy and controlling again.

And not.

Mesa in autumn for blog

I’m more kind now too. Because I have stood in the back and watched people in the front. I know what I want, I’m just not as capable as I once thought I was, when a zest for accomplishment froze my ability to see the ways I walked over people’s feelings.

I still have the ability to lead, now I just want to lead more from the back than the front maybe. Maybe I’m willing to get up front, but more reluctantly. Maybe I’ll get up front if everyone will join me. I certainly don’t want it to be about me. I want it to be so that our team comes together.

In my marriage, I want us to meet so that we connect.

Originally, I had lists so that we could do it my way. Now I have ideas so that we become a team. How did that change? Failure. Watching myself loose the title to the car, miss a tax payment and toss a roller skate across the room helped me realize that I am not everything I imagined myself to be. Those realizations softened me, and that softness has made me a more lovely person to be around.

Now I can return to the front of the room and mention that the meeting started a minute late because that is a fact. We can aim to start more promptly next time. But starting promptly or not isn’t a judgment about the people in the meeting. There are many reasons to start late. There are many reasons that nurture human beings. And I can nurture leadership in my life and marriage from many places.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Terri February 8, 2017 at 4:38 pm

Cronehood sure has its perks, huh?

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Yvette Francino February 9, 2017 at 4:19 am

Hey Rebecca,
Did you know there’s a style of training called “Training From the Back of the Room”? It’s when we don’t stand at the front with a powerpoint presentation, but try to get the students to learn from doing.

Also, there’s a style of leadership I teach called “Servant Leadership” which is more about listening, asking questions, and empowering than traditional “leading.”

It sounds like you’ve evolved to a higher level of leadership which allows for partnership and embraces the uniqueness and complementary aspects of your differing styles.

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