While working to obtain my PhD I was living the story that in work you did whatever was asked of you or required. “Do what you are told”; I did not know where this rule came from but I did know this rule was not optional for me. That was until I learned how to question my motivations and old assumptions.
My wife is a doctor and ran her own medical clinic for many years. In the early days she hired coaches to assist her and help her grow her business. Little did we know this coaching would include both marital support and personal development for both her and me. It was through this coaching that I was first introduced to the ideas and concepts of generative leadership and the gateway for me to ask, “Why do I want what I want?” and “Why do I behave the way I do?”
These questions were liberating in that I now had choice to answer them, rather than accepting my automatic defaults. I began to attend personal development events and I found that I could take a stand for my own choices in life, not just have them dictated to me from my past or from others. I became hungry for more self-awareness and choice in my life.
A huge shift for me came when I saw that I could create my professional life rather than have it dictated to me. I could have had the security of a thirty-year career at Sandia National Labs, but with reflection, I determined that I wanted to create greater possibilities in my life and thus became a partner in two tech startups. I went from “safety” to unknown possibilities. And instead of being in a state of anxiety, I was invigorated.
I was a co-founder in one of the companies and discovered that I had fallen back in to my old habitual framework of doing what I was told. In large part due to this realization I became a student of generative leadership and discovered that I was afraid to stand up for myself and for my beliefs, once again. This was the starting point in getting serious about my leadership and my desires.
Some of my most important lessons have been about myself. A big realization for me was learning that I could take a stand for my beliefs and myself without having it be about someone else. I could standup for my own life, personal and professional, and my future without it being defined by reactions to or adjustments to my circumstances.
In generative leadership I learned that new conversations enabled me to be a more effective leader and reshaped my day-to-day professional world. I learned the power of embodying a skill through practice rather than just understanding new concepts. Which in turn, helped my teams elevate their performance.
I had new questions about what I wanted from my career, business, and life; and was learning the importance of what you care about, and about taking action to take care of what you care about. It became clear to me that my most important care is my family. As a result my wife and I decided to take action on an idea that we’d been discussing for over ten years, to give ourselves and our children the experience of living in Germany. My decision was clarified by learning about commitment, choice, and the power to create from commitment. This led me to make and design bigger promises than I knew how to accomplish on my own and to commit myself to an outcome without knowing how to get there.
This perspective also reshaped my thinking about my work and career. With new clarity about the power of committed conversations I found a company that wanted me to be their Chief Technology Officer (CTO) and I was upfront and clear that my family was moving to Germany and that I was confident I could manage the team remotely. They agreed and this fulfilled one of my long held visions of being able to work independent of geographic location. I now manage a team of 19 developers that are distributed in five countries around the globe.
Generative leadership has helped me learn how to build teams where we succeed together and that leadership is not a zero sum game, distributing fixed limited resources. Together we can create value, results, promises, and even time. I have learned to live and work in a mood of abundance, which has positively impacted my life personally and professionally.