Should leadership resemble a charismatic prince charming? When it comes to soulmates and leadership, it’s best we look beyond a fairy tale. Leaders are rarely found, they are made.
At various life milestones, my wife often writes a complimentary social media post commending my role as a father, husband, or leader. They are beautifully written. They are so well written I often don’t recognize the person she describes.
Last year on my birthday she posted something a little different. Her post included a few compliments, but the most powerful message came from a song she included. She said a Spencer Crandall song sums up our relationship. As I listened I began to beam with pride:
I heard the same story growing up
That one day I’ll just find someone
A match made in heaven, it’ll be perfect
I soaked in the lyrics and I prepared to hear a song describing me as her knight in shining armor. The song continued:
We ain’t written in the stars
There’s no magic fix for when we’re fighting in the car
We’re both right so we’re both wrong, yeah we
Slam doors ’cause we’re headstrong
What!? What happened to the sappy compliments? That doesn’t paint me as her knight in shining armor?! The song continued:
Making ups out of downs, doing all that it takes
‘Cause soulmates aren’t found, they’re made
Soulmates Are Made
For those of us that grew up on the Hollywood version of love and romance, the true reality is often a rude awakening. Shouldn’t true love look like a never-ending stream of relationship bliss? If we find our soulmate, shouldn’t our relationship read like a classic fairy tale? Crandall destroys this misconception: Soulmates aren’t found, they’re made.
I’m not here to dismiss instant chemistry or love at first sight, but far too often we look at the wrong metrics to measure our relationship health. We overlook the bonding power of overcoming the trials of life together.
The characteristics that caused the initial attraction spark between my wife and me still exist, but the growing bond between us seems to come from a different place. That bond comes from a level of trust that deepens with every trial we overcome together.
Fairy Tale Leadership?
So what does any of this have to do with leadership? For many of us, our fairy tale expectations can also taint our understanding of who we need to be as leaders. We can feel like our leadership success hinges on our ability to act with an overwhelming level of charisma. We believe the myth that our ability to lead depends solely on our ability to fill the role of prince charming.
I’m not discounting the motivational spark that can come from an inspiring, vision-casting speech. However, long-lasting leadership influence requires more than a brief spark. Often leadership effectiveness has less to do with a flash of charisma and far more to do with our willingness to slog through the daily realities with our teams. Showing those we lead that we are actively committed to having their back is often one of our simplest, but most effective leadership tools.
Big Tears and Deep Sighs
Several years ago my wife and I became licensed foster parents. It was incredibly rewarding but often it was equally heartbreaking. At times I wondered what impact could we possibly make in these young lives.
One night I woke to the sound of our infant kiddo screaming in his crib. Let me clarify something quickly before you mistake me for the husband of the year. Yes, I did wake up this one night. However, if we were keeping score, I believe my wife is ahead by a factor of 10,000 to 1.
So, on this one night, I lifted our screaming kiddo out of his crib. Tears were streaming down his little face and his bottom lip was quivering. I pulled him close to my chest as I sat down in the rocking chair. As I began to rock, he lifted up his head, recognized it was me, and let out a deep sigh. He laid his head back down on my chest and immediately fell back asleep.
That night I didn’t give an inspiring speech. In fact, I don’t believe I spoke a single word. However, my simple actions during the previous 11 months built a level of trust this little kiddo could count on. He knew that no matter what nightmare he was going through, I had his back.
Leaders Are Made
I know there are many differences in what makes a healthy romantic relationship, an effective parent, or an effective leader. However, it seems there are at least a few similarities. We build the foundation for all three when we regularly and intentionally take steps to build trust. Charismatic speeches rarely build that trust. Rather, enduring storms together is the key to strengthening the bonds of trust.
When it comes to soulmates and leadership, it’s best we look beyond a fairy tale. Leaders are rarely found, they are made.
As leaders, we add value when we focus less on perfecting a prince charming facade and more on building trust. Building trust through overcoming life’s challenges, side by side with those we lead.