One of my favorite bumper stickers reads, “Well Behaved Women Seldom Make History.” That’s equally true for well-behaved men. Our civilization has progressed only because some people are willing to step outside of socially acceptable behavior and/or generally accepted wisdom.
What gives a person the courage and the stamina to face down social norms, to be willing to pay the price of creating a new and better world? Because there will assuredly be a price – somebody is benefiting from the way things are right now, and they will do whatever they can to retain those benefits.
In his book Let Your Life Speak, Parker Palmer says that he started his life, like most of us, following the goals and values that other people had set for him. And he reaped wisdom from that process – the wisdom that those goals and values, no matter how noble, were not him. They were not his life. He finally had the courage to let go of the expectations that others had put on him, and to follow his inner leading – that still, small voice that is so easy to ignore in our noisy, frenetic lives. He learned to listen to his inner compass, to let his life speak. Then he started being himself – his unique gift of contribution that the world needed.
When a person lets their life speak, they are no longer primarily focused on being well-behaved. They are willing, and able, to be a voice for the truths that they know, and to invite others to also be true to their own individual callings.
What is the most important task of a leader? Perhaps, instead of worrying about making quotas and measurable goals, the most important task might be to help each person who is entrusted to that leader to have the courage to listen to their inner voice, to let their life speak.
Have you tried to listen to and follow your inner voice? What happened? I’d really appreciate hearing from you.