By Erin T. Mobley, MPOD
What is source? You may have heard experts and advice-givers shout about the need to renew and replenish it. You might have read in a self-help or spiritual growth book somewhere about how to get back to it. You may know it as that longing that subtly tugs at you throughout your work day, begging for some quiet moments – even just a few – by the wild ocean or amongst the towering redwoods. But what is it anyway?
Source, defined by Merriam Webster, is a “generative force or cause; a point of origin or beginning.” In our world of leader development, source is that place inside that gives you life, makes your heart sing, and soothes your soul. It’s the fountainhead of your best thinking, most authentic giving and creating. For those who believe in a higher power, source may go by the name Spirit, God, or the Universe. Regardless of your religious or spiritual affinity, source can be agreed to live both internally and externally – something you access deep within as well as connect to in environments outside yourself.
Why does source matter to leaders? Knowing your emotional and spiritual “home” well – what it looks and feels like when you’re there – as well as knowing how to find it quickly, especially in moments of stress, challenge, or fatigue, is critical to a sustainable practice of leading others. In fact, many scholars argue that this is step one on any leadership journey – knowing how to lead yourself. Knowing and accessing your source relates to two significant elements of emotional intelligence (Goleman 1998): self-awareness and self-management. These two capacities set average leaders apart from the brilliant.
To find your source, let’s start by asking some questions. First, when have you felt most alive, invigorated, happy, and free? What were you doing, and who was there? Take a moment to reflect and recall that experience in your belly, your tip toes, your chest. Next, what is one thing you could do right now that would replicate that feeling of peace and joy? Is it taking a step outside to breathe the crisp air, calling your best friend for a pick-me-up, or reading poetry at your desk? Even small actions like these restore something inside of us that may feel missing. Connecting with our source renews us, brings us home.
Imagine how you would show up for your people if you felt that peaceful and taken care of most of the time? How would you behave when your best client called you with an embarrassing complaint or your boss asked for a huge project to be delivered a week early? Boyatzis and McKee (2005) describe renewal as a holistic process involving the mind, body, heart, and spirit. Continually recharging our mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual tanks is the difference to showing up as the leader we want to be.