Closing the Laptop
The tears surprised me. Out of office until September 15th. As I typed the away message I felt the reality set in – when I closed my work laptop and took a deep breath – it was as if all the sudden the curtain opened and I was forced to look at what was happening. I felt my heart race, my chest tighten, and the emotions rolled in like a monsoon settling in over the southwest bluffs of New Mexico.
My tears were not just about my cancer, my surgery in two days, the scary unknowns about chemo, radiation, and hormone treatments that are around the corner – but about what was about to happen the next day at my company – and how I had to choose my health over my employees… how I had to go against every leadership value I hold. Push myself to lay out boundaries I struggle to manage daily with firmness and confidence.
You see… I knew an announcement would take place the very next day – an announcement that would impact the lives of many people I cared about. I had no control over the announcement – the decisions behind the announcement – and though I understood why the timing was critical now – my gut wrenched that I wouldn’t be around to support.
My cancer treatment was forcing me to remain completely unattached and uninvolved. I struggled to accept that I wouldn’t have control of managing the parts and pieces – nor the ability to provide comfort and confidence to the people this would impact. My heart was breaking on so many levels – my survival instincts doing what they could to protect me from what I was feeling.
I am very deliberate about my leadership. I care about everyone I work with, and I care about my company. I pride myself in being a people driven leader – who can balance people and profit. I believe fully that people are at the heart of solid profit and therefore have to be considered in every decision made. I also believe the world desperately needs companies and leaders to put people at the heart of their decisions.
I have a business degree and over 24 years of work experience. I understand it can be a cruel world and I know as a leader hard moments and hard decisions are part of my job description. I am proud of how I navigate the business world. I am proud that I stay true to myself – true to the people centric leader who leads with her heart. I will make the hard choices – I will support the hard choices that are not my own – but I will always do so with empathy, compassion, and deliberateness.
But to do this I need to be there – I have to have contact with the people in order to feel the energy of the impact and infuse energy into the spaces that it is needed… and in this case I won’t be able to do that. I will be caring for my own health – putting myself first for the first time in my career… and so my tears are shed as I mourn the moment I had to chose between my health and my leadership commitments – an unfair moment forced by the universe in its magically ironic way.
I walk through life as an empath which means I feel everything. As an executive I make big and unpopular decisions everyday and my truth means I feel every single one of them as if they happen to me. This is so exhausting. I even wonder if my tumor has my companies name branded into it because of how much I take on and feel as I navigate our chaos. But every time I feel overwhelmed I am reminded by myself and others that the business world needs leaders like me.
I have spent so much of my life and energy dedicated to creating trust in our organization – and in this moment I know the trust with me will be broken – that my silence will be interpreted in so many different ways – that my brand as a leader will be tarnished that I will have to figure out how to repair what will be broken. I know I can do it – I know I will do it – but I also know that I have to be patient, that right now being the leader I have worked so hard to be, has to come second. That I can’t afford to take on the feeling of the 3200 people who are scared about what might come next because my energy must be conserved to fight my cancer.
As one of my colleagues reminded me - cancer isn’t something to fuck with… and so I know what I have to do. I know I have to shift my priorities, but the thought of this is so complex. Complex in a way that only someone who has fought and sacrificed hard against all odds for their success would understand. They would understand that the idea of putting their ambition, leadership values, and vision on hold is infuriating. They would understand that the control freak inside of me is panicking – having the biggest meltdown of her life.
However, as I have written in my posts before this – I was desperately in need of some change. Therefore, this life-changing moment is also a life-SAVING moment. A moment where I learn to put myself first and my career second – where I learn to not give too much of myself to a company I know would drop me in the name of profit and business performance as any business will. This is the moment I learn to work to live vs live to work – where I learn to let go – trust who I am – what I am made of – and how valuable I am. Trust that those who know me will trust me the same as the dust settles and the change is accepted.
So as I closed my laptop, as I surrendered my health to my doctors, and my career to the fate of whatever is to come, I took one step forward as a balanced leader.
I know that that the lessons I learn through this no matter how it plays out will be used to become an even stronger and more human-centered leader than I already am.