I thought upholding my reputation was the key to success. I was wrong.
I work in an industry where valuing the dignity of all humans and providing excellent nursing care is honored and celebrated. My reputation as a nurse is as good as my work. I choose, whenever it is in my ability, to be excellent. If my boss recognizes this, great, no sweat. My reputation is intact and strong.
As the pandemic interrupted life as we knew it last year, I began to seek to understand our world, our school district, health department, and local, state and federal government. Instead of being overwhelmed by the amount of information I didn’t know, a habit I had previously, I dug deeper. One article lead to another. One hashtag lead to more conversations. I decided to focus on getting our students back to in-person learning.
By the end of May I spoke at our children’s school board and by the end of July I was voted in to serve two months short of a three-year term. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Only really knowing pediatric nursing, I learned nursing is a small bubble all of its own. Policies and guidelines in the medical world do not always align to the business or educational world. I desired to be a health professional within our school board. This was my ambition, but I learned quickly that I had a lot more to learn about this world I stepped into than I had to give. My understanding of culture and climate change was far more useful immediately than my understanding of vaccines and childhood mental, physical and emotional illnesses.
Under the pressure of a pandemic, there was time to ease into my new experience. Contexts, back stories and level setting needed to happen quickly to get me up to speed. I was ill equip for the job, however, I held onto as much humility as possible. As I began to take on more and more I had to make some decisions of who I was going to be in this environment. I felt like I was a deer in headlights. I justified not standing strong over one issue for my “reputation”, stating this was most important if I wanted to be effective for the long term. Thinking back, I definitely missed out.
I was confronted with doing what I believed to be right at the risk of my reputation. I began to learn what it means to let go of what other people think of me (my reputation) and press on to do the challenging work in front of me.
I now believe that the risk of loosing our reputation can paralyze us from doing the right thing and finding resilience in the midst of difficult experiences.
I have had the opportunity in this role on this board to focus on leadership, being mentored and learning to be honest about my inexperience. I have also realized that what I stand for may hurt or deplete my reputation. It’s only in this experience that I have been able to begin leading from the right place instead of a place of protection.
I believe leading with integrity brings us life-giving opportunities and humility. We may lead in a way someone, or let’s be honest, whole groups of people, doesn’t like, but we can undeniably show integrity in all aspects as we lead. We can show what the Oxford dictionary defines integrity as: moral uprightness and a state of being whole.
Everyone has a reputation whether good, bad, or indifferent. I may have a reputation with coworker as bossy and arrogant. I may have a reputation at the nonprofit I serve with as giving and kind. I may have a reputation with my husband as determined, or thinking I’m always right. If I chose to bend over backwards for each reputation I have, I will only be exhausted. These opinions of me can be easily flip flopped by one word, one action or one decision I make.
My leadership roles became a whole lot easier when I stopped caring about my reputation and became consistent in who I am in every situation. My messaging, my values and my difficult conversations came out of the same state of doing my best to be whole. I started sleeping better. I was able to understand that no matter the outcome, success or fail, who I hold myself to be is what matters most.
I hope this brings some encouragement to you. Being a yoyo is exhausting, so take a look at the place where you lead from. You might find a new place.