The Five Commitments of Optimistic Leaders: They Work Together

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Another argument is brewing as Chandra tells her daughter, 10-year-old Rosie, to stop pestering her little brother, Dexter. As usual, Rosie ignores her and continues to tease her brother. This dynamic happens at least ten times a day and Chandra can’t see beyond the struggle. She’s furious with Rosie and annoyed with herself for not being able to resolve it.

Perhaps this story feels familiar to you. Let’s use the Five Commitments of Optimistic Leadership to support Chandra in changing the dynamic to create a new scenario. As we analyze Chandra’s situation, we begin to make connections from one commitment to another, just like playing a game of connect the dots.

Let’s watch how this unfolds for Chandra as she takes some time to think.

Chandra cultivates self-awareness by pausing to step back and reflect. She recognizes that her actions are as problematic to the situation as Rosie’s. She acknowledges that her emotions and impatience are preventing her from seeing the situation from Rosie’s perspective. And then…

Chandra wants to nurture her relationship with Rosie and Dexter, and she also wants to nurture their relationship with each other. Wanting to build trust between Rosie and herself, she has to first create a safe space for Rosie. Chandra finds the language to invite Rosie to have a conversation about what she is thinking and feeling. And then…

Chandra begins activating curiosity. Witnessing the ongoing pestering between Rosie and her brother, she wonders what Rosie is experiencing that leads her to tease Dexter. She wants to understand, rather than criticize. And then…

Chandra realizes that she has to refine communication. She wonders about the words to use and how to adjust her tone of voice so that she can help Rosie figure out the reasons for her behavior with Dexter. What would be a good open-ended question to ask that isn’t influenced by her own assumptions? And now…

Chandra thinks impact. With intentional decision-making, she can bring about a different outcome for each of her children and herself, rather than continue to perpetuate feelings of anger and resentment.

Three days later, Chandra is at the computer when she hears the beginning of another squabble between Rosie and Dexter.

Chandra uses self-awareness: While her immediate inclination is to catch her head in her hands and scream, “Stop it!”, she pauses, takes a breath, and recalls her reflection from the other day about how the Five Commitments can support her in this moment. And then…

Chandra decides to nurture relationships. She gets up from her desk and invites Rosie into her bedroom for a chat. And then…

She activates curiosity by making space to understand, rather than criticize. And then…

She refines communication by carefully choosing her words and using a gentle tone of voice. She begins by asking Rosie, “Tell me about how you’re feeling right now. I’m really interested.” Rosie has a lot to say and Chandra listens with patience. When Rosie pauses to take a breath, Chandra responds by saying, “When you get frustrated, I’m here for you.” Feeling seen and heard, Rosie gives Chandra a big hug. And now…

Chandra already feels the impact of her decision to respond in a different way. Having taken the time to genuinely listen to Rosie, Chandra recognizes the relief for herself, for Rosie, and obviously for Dexter.

As Optimistic Leaders, we find that the commitments are connected one to another. That’s why we like to think about them as “connecting the dots”. As Chandra moves through her situation, she began with one commitment and then relied on the next to help her navigate to an effective outcome. The commitment you begin with is likely to be the one that fits the best in the moment. Of course, it takes practice with the Five Commitments to feel comfortable integrating them in everyday situations. Think about the value using them would have in both your personal and professional lives. We invite you to try them out.

Co-authored by Judy Jablon and Laura Ensler

© Leading for Children, 2020

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Judy Jablon and Nichole Parks

Leading for Children is a national nonprofit that empowers adults across the early childhood ecosystem to be leaders and learners.