Our lives take lots of directions, most of our choosing. As Maslow points out here we can either move forward into growth or move backwards into safety. Whether we want to admit it or not we make these choices everyday. It may feel like the walls are closing in or that circumstances are beyond our control, yet in reality we either choose to grow or to be safe.
I can distinctly remember a situation where I had to make this choice. Safety meant I would be turning a blind eye to an unethical practice of a colleague. Growth would mean I might end up in a hot seat defending my choice to uncover and not go along, which meant some people would no longer trust me. What came to be known as a ‘normal’ activity in the business unit was actually a form of fraud…ouch! It had been going on for years and no one wanted to be the one to speak up. Gulp! Looking back I can see that they chose safety as they wanted to keep their jobs. I chose to speak up and ended up losing the respect of several leaders who thought I was a ‘team player’. Strange how a team player means being willing to look the other way only when it suits someone else’s pocket book. Years later I encountered one of those leaders who thought I wasn’t a team player, he apologized and told me he admired my spunk. I left knowing he had chosen safety even at the C level.
Wisdom teaches us to know when to run and when to fight, when to speak our minds and when to let silence rule the day. And wisdom comes with experiences, self reflection and most of all with time. The wisest people I know are the ones who have been through a few more battles than they expected and chose to learn rather than give up. They may not always cross the finish line first yet the fact that they are still in the race makes them someone I want to learn from. Leadership means first being able to look ourselves in the eye before we face anyone else. Some days we grow more than others, here’s to hoping our growth days outnumber our safety days.