What Do Writer’s Block and Leadership Have in Common?

Bear with me for a short story.

A former colleague and I are working on a book. Something initially inspired my former colleague, and as we began to work together, further content planning was inspiring. Writing the outline was say, “exciting” — a sense of accomplishment that we were getting closer to the goal. But, now it’s time to write, and…

Silence. No tapping sound on the keyboard, whatsoever. Just staring at the screen. Well, I’ll check email. I’ll return that phone call….and off I go, spiraling down into the bottomless pit of avoidance tasks.

What is happening? There was no end to the flow of ideas during the planning stages, but now that the real work has begun, I’m blank. Time for a pep talk! “This happens to everybody, like the common cold, I have writer’s block. Just write. Just write something.”

Predictably, after the willful pep-talk-for-self, I begin pounding away at the keyboard, but it’s like I’m removed from my body, watching. Just like those other times something “isn’t coming,” I thankfully zapped back into my body, took a break and, well, procrastinated again. Perhaps there is a place for it.

Then later it hit me, the “aha!” of instant realization that something was missing:

I had lost the connection to my inspiration.

I harp on Knowing Yourself First being table stakes throughout your career, and here it is again: To make great things happen, you need to stay connected to your inspiration, lest your heart be removed from your brain and you go through the motions. People are perceptive and they can absolutely tell the difference between an inspired leader versus one going through the motions. Inspiration creates energy and engagement.

Does the story above sound familiar? Ideas and planning, great! Execution, not so much. Where are you going through the motions at work? What is truly important to you to make happen in your organization?

I know, I know, “My goals are my boss’/company’s goals.” OK, that is certainly valid. But if you can’t match that with some value, inspiration, goal that is inherent to you, what’s the point? What do you really offer?

Inspired people — even for the most uninspiring projects like process improvement — create real change and make great things happen.

You really owe it to yourself, and those you lead. Reach out and pull back that being going through the motions! Tap your inspiration and really see it. Then, find ways to express it, through stories, reaching out to people and asking for commitment or finishing that important “side” project.

Think of who you would most want to follow.

“Motivation and inspiration energize people, not by pushing them in the right direction as control mechanisms do but by satisfying basic human needs for achievement, a sense of belonging, recognition, self-esteem, a feeling of control over one’s life, and the ability to live up to one’s ideals. Such feelings touch us deeply and elicit a powerful response. ” — John P. Kotter

  1. Christine,
    Good reminder that people sense passion (or lack thereof) in their leaders and will follow those who have it “into a burning building” (so to speak).


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