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The Magic of Light in Leadership

Light on flowers by a tree

Our world is in desperate need of a new kind of leadership. The industrial-age model of hierarchy and power, evaluation and control is no longer serving us as people or as a planet. We’ve all seen the “dark sides” of organizations and how they show up in various forms, though what is considered “the dark side” hasn’t always included standard organizational practices. Hierarchy, control and assessment of people through the lens of evaluation rather than potential represent the absence of “light” for many people, and we need more leaders who can bring their teams into the light. This does not mean that leaders are simply stuck with required HR practices that stifle creativity. Putting their inner magician hat on, they can do a lot to bring light to their teams, spread it around and eventually shape change in many stifling HR practices.

Like magicians use misdirection to direct the attention of the audience, leaders have to learn how to direct the attention of their organizations toward the light (that which makes people come alive) and away from the elements that make people feel lifeless (the dark sides). In comes the Magician leader, with the ability to direct attention from fear, anxiety, disengagement, and overwhelm, to the light of freedom, hope, vision, and commitment. One dictionary definition of a magician is “a person with exceptional skill in a particular area.” It is time to develop leaders to have exceptional skill in the area of bringing “the light” into their organizations.

sunflowers facing the sun

Why light as a metaphor?

Humans need light. Our circadian rhythms are largely controlled by the sun. Daily exposure to light supports our health. Light amplifies our moods and emotions; a lack of light leaves some people depressed. Plants always grow toward the light, not the darkness. Sunflowers turn their heads to face the sun and follow the sun from dawn to sundown for growth

People also turn to the light for growth.

What is the light in organizations?

Anywhere people can turn for their personal growth “nutrients.” Any place that is a sacred space free of judgment to be themselves, innovate ideas and step up to the process of leadership themselves. Almost nothing creates growth in people more than new experiences that force people to discover greater parts of themselves. Any place that facilitates the state of “flow,” “aha moments,” and “insights” and conditions that drive the internal motivation to show up at their best every day. To be able to do that as a leader, you have to know what those conditions are, so consider that your next conversation with your team.

It is also any place they come to discover more of the truth of who they are. A place to start unraveling their perceived limitations to become more than they ever imagined. A place to connect to the organization’s vision in ways that fulfills their own personal dreams and creates more meaningful work. Work that allows for creative, spiritual, mental, and emotional expression of themselves. Work that enables them to “become” and keep “becoming” and doesn’t label and limit them with a constant focus on what was done in the past.

the road to the future

What do people need in the way of more light?