The Wise Advisor Beside Us

the_walking_manBy Scott Cochrane

During my last trip to Paris, I stopped by one of my favorite museums, Museé d’Orsay. I figured on this trip I would mix a little pleasure with business, so I arrived a day earlier than need be. While I was trying to sneak a few photos past the security guards on the fifth floor, I noticed a great deal of attention around the Auguste Rodin sculpture, “The Walking Man.” At first I was curious because on previous floors of the museum I saw several beautifully polished white marble sculptures without a flaw that drew much less attention.  This Rodin sculpture was battered and bruised. I then realized that people are not all that interested in perfection; we are intrigued by what we can relate to on a deeper level. “The Walking Man” is an authentic and inspiring piece of art because of its demonstration of vulnerability, which attracted the crowd much more than the essence of unachievable polished perfection.

Upon reflection, I realized how much it actually relates to the executive experience. Numerous top business executives I speak with have a preconceived notion that they must somehow reach perfection. Companies put more and more pressure on their executives to make perfect presentations, to overachieve KPI’s, and to continuously correct weaknesses. This can all lead to an unrealistic expectation of perfection. What we have to understand is that the polished perfection of a white marble statue has limited impact, which is equally true with the overly polished executive. Whereas, the raw vulnerability and authenticity offered by the Rodin statue equally equates to the magnetism, power, and impact of the executive who is not afraid to show the scars of victories and failures. What I try to explain to my clients is that perfection is not the goal, instead they need to make an impact by being their true selves – genuine, authentic and memorable!

I have seen first hand various senior level executives who decide to put in their resignation so as to pursue a desired career change. But it is not until then that their true essence is revealed. During their sometimes-lengthy resignation notice periods their leadership style dramatically changes, suddenly becoming much more pronounced and effective. Now free from the grips of pressure to please and conform, they fully demonstrate their authenticity and genuine self. They unabashedly show their battle scars and are not fearful of gaining a few more. Having accepted (and even chosen) their own death in the organization, they are finally free to shamelessly speak out, lead, empower and drive a bold road forward.

 Carlos Castaneda spent his life writing about the path of the Warrior… a Man of Knowledge. At one point during his apprenticeship, his mentor, the Nagual Don Juan Mateos from Central Mexico, told him, “Death is the only wise advisor that we have. Whenever you feel, as you always do, that everything is going wrong and you’re about to be annihilated, turn to your death and ask if that is so. Your death will tell you that you’re wrong; that nothing really matters outside its touch.  Your death will tell you, ‘I haven’t touched you yet’.” As I was leaving the Rodin statue I could hear those words resonating in my head…