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"There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed."
Earnest Hemingway.


Leadership is about Capacity

Many years ago now, I remember sitting in a small conference room with other Sole Proprietors as the speaker took a jug and tried to pour the contents into a shot glass. He was talking about leaders and the importance of making sure we were going to do everything we could to ensure we could grow our capacity from the shot glass to the large glass on the table and then he encouraged us, “don’t stop there, never stop growing your capacity to receive more so that your influence could make an impact in the world you found yourself in”.

I was musing about this over the weekend, as I was reading some posts about the damage a little town down south took on during the week when the banks of the river burst. The banks could not hold the capacity of the river and the town was devastated.

We don’t have to look to far for a story where a leaders lack of capacity causes devastation, heartache and trouble. None of us want to be that kind of leader…. So how do we grow our capacity? How do we become large capacity people? Can we grow our capacity? Or is there a limit? How do we recognise when we have reached our capacity? These are some of the questions I have been throwing around and working through. Feel free to add some wisdom in the comment’s section.

When I think about the time in my life that I saw that demonstration, if I am honest, I was a shot glass capacity person at that time, I think I have a bigger glass now… Three things were part of the growth for me personally.

You need to be willing to:

1. Endure the Pain – When I was a little girl I had the most excruciating growing pains, which is surprising considering my height. Clearly there was a battle going on…. Growth isn’t always easy, well it hasn’t been for me anyway. I spent a lot of my twenties and even thirties trying to find ways to avoid and silence the pain, it is only when I leaned in and faced my past, my hurts, my fears and leaned right into it all, that growth really started to happen. And as I did, my capacity to love and contribute also started to grow. My fears and limitations started to shrink. In order to grow your capacity you need to be willing to run to your pain.

2. Be humble – The day I stopped worrying about what people would think and say and be willing to admit that I didn’t know what I was doing and that I had hit a wall and I needed help was a huge breakthrough. Leaders are often afraid to reach out and say “Hey, I think I have reach my capacity, I don’t know how to get to the next level, heck, I don’t even know what is going on at the moment.” We do this because we are afraid of what people will think or say, this is never going to lead to anywhere good. Growth is about getting honest and then getting curious. Kids grow their capacity at a rate of knots when they asking question upon question upon question. Humble yourself again, be honest and get curious again.

3. Be prepared to be afraid again – Every year in December my brother and I would go stay a week or two at my Granny’s house at St. Michaels on the South Coast of Durban, not far away was a beach called Uvongo which had a very high cliff that you could jump off into the lagoon. There were two levels. My cousins had convinced me that jumping from the highest one would be the right thing to do one year. It seemed like a good idea as we climbed up, until I stood over the edge. Then as I looked down, fear gripped me. I was terrified, and the movie of all the things that could go wrong flashed through my mind. I am still not sure why I did it, but I jumped off when it was my turn and it felt like I went down forever and I frantically kicked to get myself back to the surface and burst through the water and inhaled quickly to relieve my burning lungs and let out a huge whoop! It was so awesome to know that I had done it and that none of the things I was afraid of happened. What a memory! When was the last time you did something as a leader that stretched your capacity and terrified you. Comfort and certainty will not grow your capacity. Step to the edge and jump again.

This week I would encourage you to check in as a leader, where are you sitting with regard to your capacity as a leader? Lean in to the pain, be humble, be honest and get curious again and step to the edge.


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