As summer approaches, so do blue skies filled with fluffy, white clouds. Clouds that weigh over a million pounds each! That’s right. Clouds are really heavy. However, the air below them is even heavier (actually, more dense). The molecular weight of a water molecule is less than the molecular weight of a nitrogen molecule or an oxygen molecule, the two gases that make up 99 percent of dry air. So, as water vapor displaces the air in a cloud, the cloud becomes less dense and “floats” on the drier air below it.
Very few people ever even consider the enormous weight that is floating above them. Far fewer have any concern that the cloud will fall and crush them (probably because it won’t). There is also a weight to leadership that I notice some leaders often don’t consider.
Other people are affected by what we do.
While this is generally true for everyone, the range and significance of the impact is magnified for those in positions of influence and leadership. This applies to everything we do, not just the “official” things. The impact of our actions can be positive or negative. Most actions are amoral, meaning without context they are neither good nor bad. It is in the reason the action is taken—the motivation—that we are able to assign a positive or negative attribute.
Before I blew up my life and had the opportunity to learn where my true value comes from, I did a lot of things that looked good. I built, created, and gave. However, my underlying motivation was to increase my personal value. While there was good associated with what I was doing, my actions were driven by my belief system which required everyone around me to compete with me (and each other) for value; therefore, the culture I created as a leader was toxic.
What we do is driven by what we believe. For those in leadership, our beliefs and associated actions are the organic origin of the culture, or experience, for those we are responsible to serve. If we are self-centered and driven by a need to accumulate the trappings of “success”, we will feed a culture where people are used by us and others. However, if we are other-oriented and driven by the belief that everyone is equally valuable, we will grow a culture where people are nurtured and then enabled to give back to the community.
Those fluffy clouds above us are not a threat, because when they do come down, they fall as rain over time instead of crashing down with all their weight in a moment. Our leadership has the same potential to either nourish those we serve or crush them. The difference is your “why” far more than your “what.” We are the weight above the people we serve. Carrying that weight with responsibility and watering and nurturing a value culture is our privilege and the Bison Way.