Leadership Development: Using Your Fate as a Clue to Your Destiny

impactYou encounter leadership problems or challenges all the time. Did you ever notice that they end up being the exact circumstances you need in order to evolve as a person and a leader? You may have issues with people who don’t respond to you as you’d like. You might experience frustrations with initiatives that don’t go as planned. Whenever there is a “rub” that bothers you, it often shows you something about yourself now and who you can become. It is as though these leadership challenges are put in your path as part of your fate.

Fate: Past and Present

In Ancient Greece, the well-known mythology of the Three Fates explained why life unfolded as it did. Lachesis was the Fate who drew the lots, giving each person certain characteristics and conditions along with a plot line for their life. Clotho spun the thread of each person’s life into the larger tapestry of time, giving each human a “twist of fate”. And Atropos decided how each human life would end and presided at the finish to cut the thread of life.

Today, we often use the terms “fate” and “destiny” interchangeably, but these terms can be thought of as two different things. According to mythologist and storyteller, Michael Meade, “fate” is all of the limitations and challenges we encounter throughout our lives (conditions along the path); while “destiny” is our purpose or the ultimate contribution we make to the world (the destination).

Using Your Fate to Achieve Your Destiny

This distinction is key. Reflecting on your fate allows you to examine your past experience (your fate thus far) to maximize the impact you can have now while increasing your potential for achieving your destiny or potential.

So, if you find yourself repeatedly encountering the same frustrating situations, you could think of the irritation as your “fate” poking you to take a look at things more closely. Maybe there are characteristics you could change or evolve further. Maybe there are new ways of thinking that could emerge from those particular circumstances. Often in leadership, we are asked to reflect by looking inward to question our approach, to throw off old patterns, and to step into new learning that will better serve us and those around us.

When reflecting on your “fate” to date, look back on your experiences thus far and take notice of the following:

  • People who were hugely influential to you;
  • People who showed up randomly or “out of the blue” to provide guidance or assistance;
  • Odd or surprising twists that put you in certain places or positions;
  • Odd events that might not even make sense yet;
  • Themes that keep coming up (whether or not you’ve figured out what to do with them yet); and
  • Situations that, at the time, seemed negative, but that turned out best in the long run.

As you look backward, what sense can you make of any of it? What clues does this emerging story provide for where you might go next? What kind of support or new learning would benefit you as you forge ahead?


WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR NEWSLETTER, BLOG OR WEBSITE? You can, as long as you include this information with it: Beth Strathman works with corporate leaders who want to enhance their leadership abilities to drive bottom-line results. Learn more about her company Firebrand Consulting LLC at: firebrandconsultingllc.com.

Leadership Development: What’s Your Destiny?

confidence, destinyAs you look at your own leadership development, have you ever had an inkling of where your life might take you? If so, you could say you had an insight to your destiny. It might sound far-fetched to some, but to others, there is an unexplainable “knowing” that helps us make sense of the world and to see where we might be heading in it.

Destiny in Mythology

In the Jewish mythological tradition, the Angel of Conception, Lailah, implanted each tiny soul in its mother’s womb. By the light of a candle, Lailah showed the incubating soul a preview of its unique role in life and what adventures awaited it in the world. Just before birth, Lailah blew out the candle. And as the newborn emerged from the womb, Lailah placed her finger on the baby’s lips. This caused the child to forget everything it learned of its life in the candle-lit womb, sealing the child’s lips shut. Thus, the story goes, your philtrum (the indentation running from the bottom of the nose to the middle of the upper lip) signifies the place where Lailah “shushed” you with her finger, causing you to forget the everything you had seen in utero as you came into the world.

Similarly in modern times, Carl Jung espoused the idea of the “collective unconscious”. This is a universal “soul” that includes inherited, pre-existing, unconscious instincts and archetypes that are shared by all humans. As with the myth about Lailah, Jung taught that we are all born with a forgotten knowing about our lives and the world at large.

The “fun” of all of this is to discover what we will become. After all, achieving your destiny wouldn’t be challenging if you knew exactly what it was. This is true of who you are becoming as a leader, too.

Fate Versus Destiny

Often the terms “fate” and “destiny” are used interchangeably, but you can think of them as two different aspects of your unfolding life. “Fate” defines the context and all of the constraints you operate under during your life. This include your family, your physical appearance and capabilities, the time period in which you live, where you live, the beliefs you acquire, your personality traits, etc. In contrast, “destiny” is the destination of your life. Think of it as your purpose or the ultimate contribution you are capable of making to the world. You have and will continue to experience the twists and turns of your fate along the way. But it remains to be seen whether you will achieve your ultimate destiny.

No matter where your destiny lies, the fateful experiences you have as a leader provide a fertile ground for learning what you need to know to achieve your destiny. The problem is, you must feel your way along, never really certain where everything will end up. As Michael Meade writes in his book, The Genius Myth, “Life must be lived forward but can only be understood by looking backward.” That is, every person, every encounter, every setback, and every success is part of your “becoming”. They point toward your destiny.

This is important because viewing your leadership trajectory in light of your history, helps make sense of who you are becoming as a leader. And knowing this, you can step more fully into the leader you’re meant to become.
Where does your destiny lie? Is your destiny directly related to your career? Or does it lie in another aspect of your life? Is your leadership role simply a twist of fate on the way to something else? Or is it your destiny?


WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR NEWSLETTER, BLOG OR WEBSITE? You can, as long as you include this information with it: Beth Strathman works with corporate leaders who want to enhance their leadership abilities to drive bottom-line results. Learn more about her company Firebrand Consulting LLC at: firebrandconsultingllc.com.

How to Scale Your Own Leadership “Dawn Walls”

I don’t know if it’s possible; I’m just going to keep working on it. — Tommy Caldwell,  El Capitan Dawn Wall Climber

In recent weeks, I marveled at the tenacity and audacity of Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson as they free-climbed the Dawn Wall of El Capitan, following their 3-week, 3000-foot climb up the mountain’s sheer granite face.  What we didn’t see was the behind the scenes hard work that made the end result possible: the 7 years of planning, the obstacles identified and analyzed, the attempts to climb daunting patches of the wall over and over again. Imagine the focus and attention Caldwell and Jorgeson had to use each second of the climb!

To me, this Dawn Wall climb serves as a larger than life reminder of the approach to take when confronting personal and professional challenges – small and large.

Most of us go to work each day, subconsciously replicating the same experiences for ourselves and our employees without really being present and using the conscious attention and focus that could take things to another level.  The Caldwell/Jorgeson climb serves as a reminder of the conscious reflection, planning and attention required to become great at anything, including leadership.

Here’s how we can scale the Dawn Wall of our own leadership, using experiences to evolve ourselves with each challenge that presents itself to us:

  • Reflect on where you’ve been and how far you’ve come along as a leader.  No matter where you are as a leader, if you look back on your development, are you making progress toward a better version of your leader-self? As with Caldwell and Jorgeson, how well have you planned and executed your development? What obstacles, challenges, and setbacks have you run into? What did you do to overcome or adjust in response? Did you have to back-track and find a new way to get where you are now? In what ways have you become clearer about your leadership style and capacities? How has your perspective changed regarding what leadership is for you?
  • Identify your next challenge (aka “Dawn Wall”).  There is always a challenge to overcome, whether it’s a new market to explore, a new alliance to form, a new way of interfacing with direct reports, or a new definition of your work as you enter a different phase of your career or life.  These challenges provide the impetus for making changes in the way you lead and relate to others. What’s the challenge in front of you now that you will commit to take on?
  • Identify new capacities you need to be able to scale this newest challenge. Often, we are more concerned with the new capacities employees need for business endeavors to be successful, and we forget that each new challenge will require us as leaders to raise our competencies as well. Failing to grow along with a challenge is usually an invitation to be passed up and passed over as change occurs around us.  Constantly evolving into a better and better version of you not only keeps you relevant and competitive, but it makes you personally more adaptable and capable and more valuable because of that.  Think of the challenges that come your way as tailor-made growth opportunities. 

These growth opportunities may come in the form of eliminating behaviors and/or beliefs that are no longer serving you, capitalizing on an existing strength and taking it to a new level, or developing a new skill, like the ability influence others who don’t report to you. Whatever your current challenge is asking of you, whatever your potential areas for growth are, be open to them. You’ll evolve while serving as a role model for the importance of on-going personal and professional growth.

  • Create your professional development plan. Yes, you need a professional development plan, too. And as with other employees, it’s really effective if it’s strategically tied in some way to your organization’s strategic goals and those current challenges.  What new experiences do you need to grow? What existing strengths can you build on? What knowledge and skills do you need to gain? What attitudes do you need to change or let go of?  And what’s the action plan to accomplish the areas for growth you’ve identified?

Whichever challenge comes your way, working on it can pay off big for your business and evolve your leadership capacity.  You’ll be better than you were before and ready for the next challenge.

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR NEWSLETTER, BLOG OR WEBSITE? You can, as long as you include this information with it: Beth Strathman is the advisor for senior leaders who seek to evolve their leadership capacity by solving current business challenges for better productivity and profitability. Learn more about her company Firebrand Consulting LLC at: bethstrathman.com.