“Lighten up, Francis.” I love this line from Stripes (great movie, by the way). It is a constant reminder to me and to any leader that we run into trouble when we take ourselves too seriously. Most of us are not in roles where we are making life and death decisions. We are in business; we make and sell products, we sell and provide services. How is it that we become so worked up over things when something doesn’t go our way? Perhaps to be better leaders (and people), we need to “lighten up.”
I am not advocating being less than committed or serious about our work. I take my work very seriously. But, when we become overly serious about our work, we become closed down and certain, inflexible, and humorless. I know this is true for me. I think if you’re honest with yourself, you’ll acknowledge it’s true for you as well. These are not positive attributes that will serve us well as we work to drive our businesses forward and develop the capacity of the people around us to work with us in these endeavors.
As leaders, we are at our best when we are open and curious, when we approach our work with a sense of lightness. This mindset invites creativity, engagement, and collaboration. This mindset looks like flexibility, inquisitiveness, and a playful sense of humor as a way of being and leading. It allows us to become tolerant of uncertainty, which is vital for leaders; because in a world of constant change, certainty is an illusion and not our friend.
As things begin to ramp up, I challenge all of us to “lighten up.” What would it look like if we worked to drive our business forward and develop our people with a little more lightness? I think we’d be more inquisitive, more flexible, more comfortable with uncertainty, and more fun. Let’s try.