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Change is Hard, and it's Hard to be Brave all the Time. Permission to Fall Apart and Make Changes.

There's a Chinese proverb that goes “A wise man adapts himself to circumstances, as water shapes itself to the vessel that contains it." 

Have you ever noticed the many ways that women are masterful at adaptation and change? Adjusting to their external environment is the easy part, when you consider the physical changes that a woman’s body goes through from birth until old age. Managing physical changes, emotional changes, and oftentimes relational changes on a cyclical basis creates a natural disposition of adaptability.  

That's hard for me to swallow, because change is really hard for me. I don't mean the kind of change that those who have lived with me have experienced--the frequent redecorating of myself or my home….That kind of change is more like rearranging. I am a rearranger and quite proud of it! But when it comes to real adaptability, the kind of thing that works as a person to shift their priorities, realign their budget, or exchange their wants for unexpected needs, well those changes are damn near impossible for me to swallow. Swallowing change is hard. Nothing like the Chinese proverb...water shaping itself into anything but perhaps a water balloon.  

My experience of adaptability looks more like ‘smile on the outside and cringe on the inside’. Too much smiling in that circumstance is no good for the soul. Being honest about the difficulty we experience with forced adaptability is a good thing. Even better is when we can look at our proclaimed values and see where we can embrace change because it aligns with who we are and how we aspire to be. When that happens, sometimes the bravest thing a person can do is brace for change. Bracing for change often requires a bigger vision, and support. This idea that we can be brave enough to brace for change and strong enough to adapt to it is something that marks a truly exceptional dispositional leader.

Women who lead as dispositional leaders appear to be fluid, adaptable, and thinking quick on their feet. Women who behave like this are dispositional leaders in their organizations because of the relationships that they have fostered. Another cliche that was shared with me early in my career, and reference to teaching middle-schoolers, was “love them and they will follow you anywhere”. What I discovered over the next 15 years of my career, working in anything but teaching Middle School, was that this applied to every person I encountered. Love them, and they will follow you anywhere. I think the secret to being an effective dispositional leader is not so much being the person and the front of the pack telling everyone where to go, rather it is in being the person who is shoulder-to-shoulder with the entire group, doing the hard things and being the first one to do the brave things. 

But here's the thing about being shoulder-to-shoulder with someone. You might need to make some changes that aren't so pleasant or easy. You might even fall apart from time to time. But who is someone going to trust and follow? Impenetrable vessel that nothing seems to affect or impact? The vessel that is so strong that it cannot flex or stretch? Or the water that adjusts as it is needed, and that fits in whatever vessel is in front of it. Water is a powerful element. Water quenches thirst. Water cleanses. Water makes living things grow. 

As women who lead, and do Brave things, change is part of how we bring new life and to the situations we find ourselves in.

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