Rock Stacks and Strengths
The Story Behind The Logo
Like each leader’s strengths, each stone is different. Their shapes, contours, cracks and crevices all add to their character and uniqueness.
The rock stack itself has varying meanings, from spiritual to directional, functional to decorative. It’s often used by spas and wellness centers to represent balance, peace and calm (hot stone massage, anyone??).
While I was familiar with these balanced sculptures (also known as cairns) from beach walks and photos, I saw them in a different light through the work of a young artist, Travis Ruskus, who was creating seemingly impossible configurations of balanced stones in rivers near Boulder, CO. The work and photos mesmerized me. It is pure magic (see www.truskus.com for his work).
In fact, these pieces of art inspired the logo for StrongerLeader.com.
So how do these magical structures represent being a stronger leader?
Taken together, the rock stack symbolizes the strength of each individual stone as well as the interplay between the parts. Each rock brings its own shape, texture and weight. And each fits into the stack in a certain way, finding that sweet spot where it all comes together to create a stable, functioning, beautiful, balanced whole.
A diverse team with just the right alignment of strengths and talents can accomplish the seemingly impossible.
Why do we need this now?
In this fast-paced, multitasking world. you can get caught up in all the ways you’re falling short or falling down. You feel imbalanced and don’t have the time to take that closer look at the ways you are unique and bring those gifts to create a stronger whole.
My mission is to illuminate your strengths, the places where you shine the brightest. The times when you’re doing what you love and doing it at your best.
The Stronger Leader Manifesto
Below are the values and principles that are the foundation of the Stronger Leader coaching and training programs. It always starts and ends with your strengths and a focus on the successes and positive outlook that create stronger leaders.
Put a spotlight on strengths. Illuminate the best qualities in yourself and others, the places where you truly shine. Think about the rock stack and the unique contribution of each piece of the puzzle. What makes each one different? How does each contribute to the whole to make it stronger and more complete?
You’re at your best when you’re using your strengths, so look at all you do through this lens. The more you use your strengths, the more engaged, productive, happy and successful you will be.
You can use your strengths in these other essential leadership areas:
Be a transparent and empathetic communicator. Listen intently while someone else is talking. Practice active and mindful listening skills. Try (and try again) not to interrupt. Ask open-ended questions to find out more, then reflect back what you hear to confirm understanding. Speak clearly and with intention to be understood and to understand. Even if empathy is not one of your top strengths, you can develop your capacity for perspective-taking and empathic communication. When you’re a good listener, you can soften even a heart of stone. Transparency also builds trust, which is an essential foundation for every leader.
Lead with emotional intelligence. It all starts with self-awareness and self-control, two of the hallmarks of Emotional Intelligence (EI). Understand and connect with yourself and others. All things being equal, your EQ (EI quotient) is a better predictor of leadership success than IQ (intelligence quotient). Developing empathy is one of the key skills of emotional intelligence. Instead of throwing the first stone, hold onto that rock and take some perspective and see life from the other person’s shoes.
Practice self-care. As the sayings go, you can’t drink from an empty cup, and you can’t get blood from a stone. Leaders need to recharge and practice self-care. Whether that’s a walk on the beach, a vacation, a chat with a trusted friend or a 15 minute break for a cup of tea, find the activities and people that fuel you. Even stone balancing can be a meditative act.
Tap into your creativity. Another version of self-care is creativity. Coloring, writing, painting, scrap booking, cooking, pottery, rock and roll, photography, meditation: what calls to you? When I was a kid, my friend and I used to paint rocks and sit in front of my house trying to sell them. Demand was surprisingly low (*gasp*), but we had some fun doing it. Try something new, and get your creative juices flowing!
Show appreciation. One of our core human needs is to be recognized and appreciated. A little acknowledgment goes a long way. Consider a gratitude practice, like reflecting on the good moments of the day. Maybe write down three of them. At work, have a system to recognize people for a job well done. Another form of appreciation is learning from our success. Think about a time when you were at the top of your game as a leader. What was happening? How were you feeling? What strengths did you use? How can you recreate that in more of what you do? Have a rock solid plan to show gratitude.
Be flexible. Rigid, black and white thinking can leave you cut off from others who have differing opinions. It can also cause stress and anxiety. The rock stack is again informative, as each is a different shade of gray – a reference not to popular erotic fiction but to the ambiguities and gray areas in our lives. Embrace the gray for a more realistic, balanced picture of the world. It’s not how you fail, it’s how you learn from it. “The only difference between stumbling blocks and stepping stones is the way you use them.” (unknown)
Honor diversity. We are all different yet the same: loving, compassionate human beings. Recognize and celebrate the differences among us. Like the stones in a cairn, each is different: their shapes, contours, cracks and crevices all add to their character and uniqueness. And stacked in just the right way, they create magic. We are better together.
Have fun. See the humor in all situations. Life’s too short not to laugh and see the bright side. Laughter releases endorphins, which increases your sense of well-being. I also makes you feel good. Not to mention the occasional puppy video that can be just what the doctor ordered. As you take on more and more, you may not make time to play (see Creativity, above), but it’s more important than ever. Rock on!
Keep learning. The most successful leaders are those who are lifelong learners. Whether it’s continuing education to be at the top of your game at work or a weekend meditation retreat to help you relax and be more fully present, it’s never too late to learn. Plato said, “I do not know how I may seem to others, but to myself I am only a small child wandering upon the vast shores of knowledge, every now and then finding a small bright pebble to be contented with.” Find your pebble.
Give back. Altruism is good for others but also good for you. As the saying goes, givers gain. Find a cause that lights you up. Give your time, talents or treasures as you can. You know it feels good!
Create community. Imagine if you considered your team as your community. Are there differences in how you would interact with and treat them? How will you create an engaged, involved community in your workplace and your personal life? Even the most ardent introvert needs the support of others. As the Nigerian proverb goes, “One pebble doesn’t make a floor.”