Leadership Restraint is about Sharing Power

Below is Whisper #14 from my latest book, 48 WHISPERS, which is a collection of photographs and personal meditations created across a decade of travel to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and the surrounding northern plains. 

Restraint is the opposite of overreaching. It’s about having the most power but not using it. Restraint is the essential leadership skill of the modern age. It’s about giving strength to those who feel they have less power, and it’s the only sustainable path to a fully engaged and accountable society.

I learned about leadership restraint through my voice disorder. As a CEO I was accustomed to using my voice to direct others. Suddenly talking was difficult and I was forced to do less of it. To protect my voice I began asking other people what they thought we should do. The answers I received were amazing, better than my own. I soon came to see my own speaking limitations as an invitation to give others a stronger voice. With this new understanding, our company began to soar. Restraint is about leaders quieting down so that others can do and say more.

“We say that each child is Wakan Yeja,” Verola Spider once told me. “It means ‘sacred one.’ Every child is sacred no matter when or where they enter this world.”

If each child is sacred, then each adult is sacred. If each adult is sacred, then adult organizations should be structured accordingly. The truth is diverse, and finding it requires all voices. The full potential of the human experience can only be achieved by empowering everyone.

Ultimately, restraint is the manifestation of a deep confidence in others. Enlightened leadership is about making everyone else more powerful.