Leadership

Lead with Fireworks

I’ll never forget watching my daughter experience fireworks for the first time. She stared up in awe, jumped up and down, clapped and shrieked as blue and red circles bloomed above the trees in our neighborhood.

“Blue, red, yellow!” she screamed joyfully. When the silence took over and only smoke lingered in the black sky, she was smiling quietly. A spark of wondrous excitement remained in her eyes.

My son, on the other hand, wanted nothing to do with the light display. He covered his ears, closed his eyes, and asked to go inside. For him, fireworks are nothing more than a disruption. They are loud and usually occur well past his bedtime.

These opposing reactions made me think about leadership, coaching, and inspiring others…shouldn’t it feel a little more like that? Shouldn’t leadership feel incredibly joyful and just a little disruptive?

If you are a hidden leader, you likely feel compelled to share an innovative solution, take a next big step, or simply announce to others a joyful ambition that might, possibly, move your team forward. However, many of us don’t want to disrupt. We worry about how others will receive our contribution.

This is a problem. Leadership consultants Matt Kincaid and Doug Crandall address this issue of silence by explaining who does get heard. “Those who talk well, early, a lot, and loudly earn high status.” This is less of a strategy of how to be heard, and more of a warning of who is not being heard. I wondered,

What ideas remain in the dark because we are afraid to share them?

It’s time start lighting up the sky. Disruption causes us to change ourselves—in both small and dramatic ways. In Adam Grant’s TED talk about nonconformists, he explores the success behind original thinkers. They don’t just generate ideas, they speak up and talk about them. They stand out from others because they take action on changes that are disruptive—and may not even work. They champion these ideas anyway.

Disruptive ideas, like fireworks, are chaotic. They make our current understanding of the world slightly hazy. I’m proposing that we embrace disruption anyway and let it radiate through those around us. Big, passionate, booming ideas—why do we silence them in our own heads?

Leaders must be joyful without restriction. There must be a strong certainty that their ideas are important, even if they meet resistance. Even if people cover up their ears. Even if the idea may not work.

Go ahead and start shaking up the quiet sky—if you don’t, somebody else will.

Think of one thing you want to change that is within reach. (Or maybe not so in reach.) What small (or medium, or big) ideas remain hypothetical within your own internal thoughts?

Speak them so they light up the horizon in all of their vibrant colors.

Don’t worry for a second how much sound you make.

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