Lessons In Drunken Leadership

 

I failed.

They didn’t know I failed, most of them.  They thought it was funny or deep or smart, maybe.  Maybe not, though, it’s hard to know when you’ve allowed yourself to go there.

I feel myself holding back, feel myself hiding that side of me because I know you out there will read this, even if only a few.

I know it, and yet I need to write this, need to get it down, need you to know about it.  I need you to know about it because I need you to know what it means to be a leader, and what it means to take on that role.

I just realized recently that leadership is this insane, unique, crazy thing.  Something that most of us don’t appreciate enough, don’t give enough credit.  Something that is different than most roles humans take on.

Because to be a leader you have to let it seep into your bones.  You have to make it part of you, part of your makeup.  It’s not something you can take on and off when it’s convenient.  Taking on the role needs to change you, and you need to transform yourself to its demands.

Which is not bad, it’s not negative.  It’s beautiful.

But it’s hard, and most of us, we’re unaware of it.

I was unaware of it.  When I failed.

I thought I could have fun with everyone.  Thought that maybe when we were up close and personal I didn’t need to be the leader anymore, I could just be my inner fear, my inner jumble of nerves, my lower self.  The self that lets me get drunk when I want to pretend I’m having fun, or when I’m scared, or when I just need something to make the interacting with people easier.

I realized it too late, that I can’t do that.  I’m thankful, in a way, that it happened, I suppose.  Now I know.  Now I know that I can’t be “myself” with people.  Or, to be more accurate, I need to elevate myself.

I imagine maybe you’re thinking, “Oh Elad, that can’t be, that can’t be, you can’t do that.  We have different roles to play in life, this is just a role, this is just a costume.”

I don’t think so, I don’t think so.

When I got married, I had to raise myself up, I had to be a different, better Elad.  I had to learn to listen, to be understanding, to adapt to someone completely different than me.

When I had children, I had to learn how to sacrifice my needs for someone else.  I needed to learn how to completely let go of some of my desires to feed them, shelter them, giving them a loving atmosphere.

You do what you can to not argue in front of your kids with your wife.  Why?  Not because it’s an act.  It’s because, ideally, you are learning the value of healthy communication instead of venomous argumentation.

When we take on a role of responsibility, we can no longer be who we were before.  We must become something different.  We must go through a metamorphosis.

Leadership is not so different from being a parent or getting married.  It’s more public, but also a bit more superficial.

But the changes still need to happen.

I shouldn’t have been drunk.  I failed.

If I was just me, if I was just having fun, I could have written it off, I could have played it off.  No big deal.

Things are different now, things are new now, things have changed now.

Suddenly, a swear word, a slipped message of anger, means more, means something.

Just like when you’re a parent, just like when you get married.  Things change, context changes, and so you must change.

I wonder, perhaps, if this is what is lacking in our leaders today.  If they don’t know this, don’t realize it.  I also wonder if perhaps the people who have been so disillusioned by leaders understand it on some level in their bones.

Why do we get so upset when our leaders fail us?  Or when we find out something sordid about them, even if it doesn’t relate to their official capacity?  It doesn’t make sense, and I suppose many try and make that very argument.  Yet here we are, still being disillusioned.

I think it’s because a leader is essentially asking his constituency, his “followers”, or whoever he’s leading… to trust him.  No leader can possibly survive without trust, without a sort of unwritten contract between him and those who follow him (or her, of course).

And part of that contract is that this leader will rise to, if not perfectly, if not 100%, to at least represent and live the ideal of the community he leads.  To be not just a spokesperson, a mouthpiece, but a living example.

I failed.  Failed at that, in my mind, even if not in others’.  I failed.  And it’s this sort of cleansing thing to say, not poisonous, if you understand.  When seen from the right perspective.  That I can learn from this moment, learn that this is no longer a game, I’m no longer in rehearsal, I’m no longer on my own.

I need to rise.  Rise from that failure, and see it as what it was: a lesson.  A lesson I’m teaching myself now through my subconscious, through all the thoughts that I’ve been afraid to say, but I needed to say.  Which is why I needed you here.  With me.  Listening.  Understanding.

Because, inside myself, there’s a strong part of me that wants desperately to make a promise, a pledge.  That I will take my responsibility of whatever I lead from now on seriously.  That leadership is something I will work with my heart to inject into my bones.

I need someone to know that, whoever got this far, just to know that.  To hear it.

A leader doesn’t have to be perfect.  But he needs to know what he is.  No spouse, no parent, is perfect.  But if they understand what they’re aiming for, that they need to change for the “other” they’re now serving, then they will be fulfilling the trust, the contract, that they have made with that other person or people.

Now I know, I know where I’m going.