The Leaversmith Challenge

I purposefully waited until after April Fool’s Day to propose this challenge because I wanted to make sure it was not mistaken for some kind of prank. Some will believe I should have waited much longer while others might wish I’d released this sooner. Like with all true challenges, there couldn’t have been and never will be a perfect time to initiate this one.

No day passes without me receiving at least one exhortation to become a more effective, purposeful, confident, likable, service-oriented, or successful leader. My Twitter feed overfloweth with ‘em. Facebook apparently thrives by frequently faceplanting into ‘em. And I know I really should want to achieve all of those, if only I knew what any of them meant.

I’ve attended, even taught leadership workshops and I still don’t know what the heck the term leadership means. It seems that I used to know. I was certain of that. Then, somewhere, perhaps as I was passing through Dante’s dark wood, I lost that understanding, and I’ll be (‘scuse me, Dante) damned if I know where it went.

Google®’s been no help. I Google® ‘leadership’ and receive the most contradictory collection of memes, metaphors, and meaninglessnesses imaginable. Google® Image Search yields dozens of graphics featuring red bubble-shaped characters standing taller, apart, or ahead of legions of adoring blue bubble-shaped characters. Maybe this leadership thing (if it is, indeed, a thing, which I doubt) resides in the eye of the beholder, that one only knows it when one sees it? If so, this particular spectrum of enlightenment must fall outside my visible range.

Maybe it does for you, too. Or maybe (shudder!) it doesn’t ... yet.

Which brings me to The Leaversmith Challenge. I’ve declared April to be a leadership-free zone, a month where I’m committing to try to catch myself committing one small linguistic crime: Leadership. I occasionally catch myself injecting this meaningless term into my conversations, and usually feel a moment of deep remorse and swear to clean up my sorry act, but then I invariably catch myself again. I suppose I’ve been thoroughly entrained to resolve my great mysteries in this way.

Sad? Try a little focused leadership. Failing? Leadership should help. Flailing? An ounce of leadership might be the pound of cure you’ve been looking for. Just don’t make the mistake of going out looking for leadership, though. Worst case, you’ll suddenly find yourself knowing it because you’re seeing it, and return, quite literally, full of it.

How to counteract this terrible term? I’m proposing for myself to simply replace one meaningless term with another, leaversmith. I’ve chosen leaversmith for two reasons. First, it sounds very similar to the dreaded leadership. I expect to catch myself falling back into old habits just as I’m tumbling, and I imagine that I might more smoothly shift horses once I hear the leeeeeee leaving my lips, and then I fantacize that I’ll more or less seamlessly recover with a quickly injected -versmith. Second, it’s unlikely anyone else will even notice my little substitution. But I will.

Why this challenge? I want to become more mindful of what I’m saying. I expect that more than half of what I spew distills to mindlessness, but this term, this pseudo-concept seems particularly troubling. If I can catch myself in the act of proliferating this pernicious prescription, I might more often say what I mean. I might also, by example, do my little bit to bring others to say what they mean, too. Imagine. We might then manage to communicate instead of hypnotizing each other. Could happen.

So, for the next month, consider joining me in catching yourself. Replace ‘leadership’ (whatever that means) with ‘leaversmith’—whatever THAT means. This simple substitution of one tacitly meaningless term with an explicitly meaningless counterpart might just make a difference that could make a real difference.

You might risk your chance of ever becoming a red bubble-shaped character, of ever standing taller, apart, or ahead of anyone else. You might even be committing yourself to a future as just another blue bubble-shaped character in the crowd. The only worse fate, though, could be the bottomless belief in the eternal, redemptive promise of leadership, a promise whatever-that-is seems unlikely to deliver.

©2013 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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