Your leadership is like a strand of Christmas lights

Remember the beauty of old-fashioned Christmas lights? The bulbs were made of glass and cast such a warm and glowing light. They were gorgeous but very fragile. Each year we’d pull them out of storage and there’d be some strands that wouldn’t light up. We’d painstakingly wiggle each bulb to make sure it was properly connected in the socket. Then dad would trudge off to town to get some replacement bulbs while my slightly annoyed mother and an impatient me waited so we could put up the tree.

It turns out that these lights were a closed loop system.

Closed loop means that the electricity needs to pass from the outlet on the wall to each bulb in the series and return to the power source, unbroken, for the string of lights to illuminate. Any break in the loop creates an open circuit and breaks the flow of electricity.

Picture that our leadership is like a strand of Christmas lights.

Integrity helps our energy flow. Integrity breaches break the current.

Before I go further, I want to make it very clear that I mean integrity in a very practical way:

  • As a state we move into and out of regularly. 
  • As a daily practice versus a destination we reach.[1]
  • As a multitude of actions versus something we hollowly claim we have.

Integrity, as a practice, rests on four pillars[2]:

  • Taking our 100 percent responsibility and owning our contributions (“good” and “bad”);
  • speaking authentically;
  • feeling our feelings; and
  • making and keeping our agreements and fixing those we break.

When we are in a state of integrity, our energy flows unimpeded. We feel alive. Capable. Free.

We can do big things.

Sadly, when we block our flow, the opposite happens.

That colleague you keep blaming. What’s your unowned contribution?

That thing you held back in the team meeting. What did you leave unsaid?

That anger and sadness you squashed down when not consulted. What was unfelt?

That task you said you’d complete but you keep not doing. What promises are unkept?

When we start having too many unowneds, unsaids, unfelts and unkepts, our energy stops flowing.

We feel dimmed, drained and sometimes dark. Despite our best efforts, our “string of lights” won’t shine. Thankfully, integrity is an open loop system It’s way more forgiving than closed loop electricity.

Take heart.

Tiny little adjustments can help our energy flow. Try:

  • being more direct in one single relationship;
  • giving ourselves a little more space to feel our feelings before we soldier on;
  • getting better at only saying “yes” to agreements we plan to keep

Better flow helps us feel like effective leaders and more alive.

If you have a holiday tree this season, enjoy its warm glow. Sip your favourite beverage. Play your favourite music. And give yourself permission to focus on one tiny bulb at a time.

When it comes to being in integrity, we do not have to fix every bulb to shine brighter.

Not sure where to start? We can help! Our complimentary Thrive Sessions are a great way to get clear. What’s blocking your energy flow?


[1] The leaders in one of our current Forum cohorts deepened my understanding of integrity this week. We all smiled when I said how great it is that I get to learn regularly from people who pay me to help themJ

[2] These come from The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership

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