Leaders, Spending Too Much Time in Scare City?

Most of us spend our whole lives crossing the line between two metaphorical twin cities: “Presence” and “Scare City”even though the city of Presence is so much nicer (and much better leadership comes from there). And while you likely know both cities really well, you may need better directions to access Presence anytime you want.

My friend Bruce Roosen created this illustration for me. His usual “doodles” are intricate works of art that take hundreds of hours. I was delighted he was willing to forego Perfection (a place in Scare City that I forgot to write about!) and turn this around overnight for me. Check out bruceroosen.com. Bruce has recently completed his largest work to date. I am convinced someone should buy it for $1M.  While not yet featured on his site, it is a piece you are going to want to see.

Before we swap travel stories about all the great things we’ve accomplished while in Presence, let me tell you about some of the places I frequent “below the line” in Scare City first.  

Have you noticed that the most well-known neighbourhood—Threat—has been expanding at an astonishing rate this past year? The pandemic, politics, conspiracy theories, violence and racism have most of us spending most of our time in Threat.

All people spend time in Threat. It’s very human and it’s not bad. in fact, we should all expect it. But leaders who spend the majority of their time leading from Threat will have a tough time leading well. And if they do manage to lead strong on the outside, you can bet they will often feel anxious, overwhelmed and exhausted. They may even live on Drained Drive. They still have neighbourhood “happy hours” over there but the happiness leaves as soon as the wine is gone.

I tend to spend a fair bit of time in nearby Not Enough. You’ll often find me grabbing coffee at Time Crunch Terrace. When there, I tell myself “If only I had more time, I could do great things”. When I am feeling lonely, you’ll find me over on Loveless Lane by myself. Fortunately, I don’t frequent Bankruptcy Blvd. but like most entrepreneurs, I do wander around the What If side streets.

Entitled Avenue is not a place I want to admit that I visit frequently, but I do.  When I am there, I am usually saying things like “This should be different, easier and more fun” and “If they would only do x.”

Blame Lane. Been there too. Bought the t-shirt.

It might surprise you that I also frequent Death Row. You know the one…the pedestrian street much like Victoria Row but with dark, dank shops and cafés where everyone looks scared shitless. When I’m there, I am usually worrying about my health and my parents’ health too. Over there I imagine what would happen to my daughter if I got sick or died. I worry about something grave happening to her too and how I would ever survive it. Things are always very serious on Death Row, as you well know.

Oh. And before we talk about Presence, have you been to Righteous Road lately? Very crowded these days with people holding on tightly to how their view of the world is superior. You’ll find it in the historic Defensive District where people are very easily offended and tend to take all comments as criticism.  Since I have been practicing conscious leadership, I don’t go there nearly as much. Though in truth, I still visit in my head sometimes.  

What parts of town do you frequent in Scare City?

I also promised we’d swap travel stories about our time in Presence. It’s such an awesome place. I love staying in the Trust neighbourhood because it leads to so many great destinations: Curious Crescent, Playful Place, Sufficient Street, Appreciative Avenue, and Responsibility Row are some of my favourites. What about you?

Oh, and have you been to the new spot on the corner of Flow and Ease?  Everything is positively delicious there.  There’s such a relaxed vibe and I get so much done when there. Some people cannot find it, but the directions are very simple:

First: Get clear on your current location: Where are you right now?

Next: A few breaths of acceptance: Can you accept yourself for being exactly where you are?

Sometimes, these two steps will snap you directly into Presence. Sometimes though, you won’t be ready to leave Scare City and that’s ok! You may still be feeling righteous, entitled, wanting to blame or to worry. If this happens to you, simply stay put but get really curious about your surroundings. There’s lots you can learn about yourself and your leadership, even from Scare City.  

Conscious leadership practices are a passport for being in Presence more often. From Presence, leaders like you and me can generate far better results at much less cost (time, money, drama/energy).  And that is travel worth investing in, especially during these more restrictive COVID times!  

P.S. I’d love to hear about the spots you love in Presence and the places you visit, but would rather avoid in Scare City.  It will be like Trip Advisor, but for leadership 🙂

[1] I first heard the idea of “Scare City” (a play on the word scarcity) from Diana Chapman, co-author of The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership.  You might enjoy this podcast:  Stop being so serious! Playfulness and Coaching.


  1. Julie Connolly on February 17, 2021 at 11:07 am

    My safe place is Gratitude Gateway…

    • Lisa on February 17, 2021 at 11:18 am

      That sounds like an awesome place to spend time, Julie. I can see why it feels safe. Must be inviting for others around you too. Thanks for adding to our “Trip Advisor” for other travellers!

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