Compassionate leadership in a teacher that helped me see me
His name was The Reverend Evans, but we knew him as “The Rev Ev”.
He was my religious education teacher at school.
I didn’t subscribe to a religion at school.
But I always loved the sermons that The Rev Ev gave in school assemblies. Friday mornings were like an audition for him for a lead actor role. His comforting, lilting voice made the lesson behind each sermon all the more touching and impactful.
He spoke from his heart, and his skilful oratory always made me think about how deeply connected we are in our common humanity, even if we are blinkered – or even blind – to it.
He was a teacher with a stern gravitas who also had lots of compassion, and I looked up to him, despite the differences in our religious beliefs.
“You’re in danger of being an also-ran”
So it was a shock when The Rev Ev wrote in my mid-term report card an “F” for Religious Education, as well as some pithy commentary: “Eric is in danger of being an also-ran”.
I was 12, and a straight A+ student, except for that F. It was a sore sight amongst all the other A grades. But I was more embarrassed that I didn’t know what my RE teacher’s “also-ran” comment meant.
My gut told me it was something important.
You see, growing up in a home speaking English, Cantonese and Hokkien interchangeably has huge benefits now, but my English wasn’t very polished back then: my brain was still figuring out basic things, like the correct word order for sentences.
But “also-ran” stumped me completely. I had to look it up in a (paper) dictionary:
Ouch. That hurt.
Being written about in third person didn’t take away the sting. The teacher I looked up to had left me reeling.
And throughout my life that moment has kept flashing back.
“Why did he think I’m an also-ran?”
“What if his words came true?”
“Am I an also-ran now?”
The lesson in Effortless Leadership that your colours teach you
The truth is, the Rev Ev did me a huge favour.
I didn’t want to study religious education, so I came up with countless mental loopholes to justify my “F”, like “my time was better invested in my other subjects”, or “Religious Education didn’t really matter”.
But The Rev Ev saw something that I couldn’t see.
He saw me. He saw through me.
And by doing so he helped me to see me: that I was missing out on the potential he saw in being the true me.
There’s a natural phenomenon called the Purkinje effect. My good friends Rachel and Jeremy told me about it way back when were at university looking out at the trees in a forest one evening.
Because of the way the light falls and the rods and cones in our eyes register light, greens and blues become more intense as the sun sets, whereas reds and oranges have their intensity as the sun rises.
In each case, the colours pop.
But if you took a picture of the same green trees or orange sunsets with a camera or mobile device, the colours you would see would be different.
You’d see evening sunsets even more saturated with orange and red richness. And the morning grass and trees would be even more of a vibrant, vivid green.
Because your camera doesn’t rely on rods and cones. It picks up ALL the colours that are there.
You see, what The Rev Ev saw in me, is what I see in many leaders.
He saw all of my colours just like a camera can, and not merely the ones I could see. He saw all the sunset red and orange hues, as well as the greens and blues of my sunrises. And all the colours in between.
Can you see all of the vivid colours of your Effortless Leadership?
Sometimes we can’t see our own colours.
And that’s a shame, because the colours that we can’t see are a gift. If we want to see them in all their vividness so they pop, we need a camera to help us.
Sometimes that camera might be someone close to us to help us see them.
Sometimes you can see your colours through a camera lens, but the culture that you’re part of acts like a filter.
Some of the colours hide away again. Perhaps you have different filters that you use in different situations.
Sometimes it’s the culture that needs to change and be more welcoming of your colours – family, work, society.
But sometimes you need – with courage and acceptance – to cast the filters aside and offer the gift that your colours bring to the world.
Those colours are there, they always are, and they’re part of you.
The key foundation to Effortless Leadership
Are you willing to experience all the colours that shine from you?
Life – and leadership – feel tougher than they ought to because we can’t yet see for ourselves the path to it feeling effortless.
One of the colours that heart-centred leaders often struggle to see for themselves is the foundation that should come first in modern life but it doesn’t.
It’s the reason leaders with a mission end up playing chicken with their health, and lead and live life in a way that’s more difficult than it should be.
It’s the key foundation for Effortless Leadership.
The key foundation for Effortless Leadership is living a “health-first” approach.Tweet
It’s the foundation that unlocks the amazing, vivid, beautiful colours that you can’t yet see in yourself.
What is that foundation?
It’s living a “health-first” approach.
I’ll be sharing more about “health-first” and how that fits into Effortless Leadership is, and how you can become the leader that other leaders secretly admire when your morning alarm goes off, you smile, and you can’t wait to get together with your team.
The Rev Ev passed away in 2017. I never got to speak to him about the impact he’s had on me. But the camera he gave me is a gift that continues to give.
If you want to stop being an also-ran leader, and step into the vividness of your fullest life with abundant energy, a brain that’s in tip top condition with a love and presence that extends beyond your mission to everyone around you, I’d love to start a conversation with you.
Let’s set your colours free for the world to see!