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Life & Leadership Lessons From a Wise Friend

Posted on: July 29th, 2012

Potpourri: Life & Leadership Lessons From a Wise FriendLeadership

Who’s your mentor, advisor, confidant, your quiet voice in the storm that you call upon to help you find your way through the occasional fogbanks of life? For hundreds, the late leadership expert Jim Farr was that person. Two years after his death I still hear people talk about his changing their lives. Management consultant Evelyn Rice recently said he helped her create the life she wanted for herself.

Farr, a savvy psychologist of powerful ego and gentle soul, helped found Greensboro’s Center for Creative Leadership and helped people find themselves.

When he died in 2000 at age 81 I wrote of his core philosophies that touched me – I too was a disciple. At the anniversary of his death, those principles hold in these challenging times.

“Your mind is not you.” Your thoughts and feelings are created by a lifetime of experiences, many in early childhood. Those thoughts and feelings are NOT who you are. You are a “being” separate from them, and they need not dictate how you behave. They should not compel you to live like a programmed robot. You CAN change how you think and feel, and that can revolutionize your life. This is difficult work that can take years, but is doable if you want it badly enough.

“You are making it all up.” Since your thoughts and feelings are hard-wired by your personal experience, they are not necessarily the objective truth. So, when you are feeling afraid, angry, or depressed, just remember that you – YOU – are generating those emotions. In other words, you are making them up.

“Disappear it.” Therefore, if fear, anger, or depression is your own creation, you can manage it. Take fear. Jim would ask, “What is fear? It is just a bundle of energy that you feel in your gut.” If it is an unreasonable fear not connected to a genuine threat, do not respond to it. If you DO respond in any way, you reinforce it. Don’t. Without response or reinforcement, fear will lose its grip over time. Jim called this “disappearing the fear.” You can also “disappear” depression and anger.

Jim used himself as an example. As a younger man he frequently was angry with subordinates. Following more than 15 to 20 years of hard work, Jim said he disappeared most of the anger and its underlying fear and learned to prize joy and lovingness.

“Become self-aware to become a full-fledged leader”

Important advice for leaders came in a 5-hour long videotaped interview in 1996 that was never released. I asked Jim whether leaders are made or born. He said, “(Leaders) are, in my book, largely made. (They) lead through their personalities, their minds, their emotions, their bodies, their actions; and leadership takes different forms; some forms more effective than others. Those forms are shaped by your personality and your make up. Some people, therefore, are born, or at least they grow up with, characteristics that are a better fit, on the average, to what you have to do to get followership. But that’s just luck and they become just average leaders…

If you’re really going to be a full-fledged professional leader, you have to learn to adjust your personality, mind, emotions, behaviors to meet the demands of the situation…

“An absolute requirement for the development of professional leaders and leadership is training in self-awareness… The instrument of leadership is mind, body, emotions, personality. It’s very complicated and most people know very little about how… their personality works, how their minds work, how their emotions work. I believe in that kind of profession they need training… and it can be learned. I think that’s where we ought to move.”

“All paths are equal”

If you are struggling with life choices, I offer this last and lasting advice from the late Jim Farr. He paraphrased Carlos Castenada to say, “all paths through life are equal, so choose the path that has heart for you.”

Good luck with your choices and if you get hurt along the way, remember you’re “making it all up.” Get over it.

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