Un-Acts of Leadership

| | Personal Leadership

“In living, there is an unliving activity required. It is undoing what needs to remain in the past. Life requires us to live anew while unliving damage. It is in this unlife/life mix we live in a better way, growing and advancing our gifts.” Jon Mertz (aka @thindifference) from Creating an Unlife Life

In his article, Three Vignetters on Unlife Life Choices, Jon Mertz provides three great examples of un-life choices we can make: unbuckle from a wrong path, unchain from past bad habits, and unpack old perspectives.

Since developing yourself as a leader begins with developing you to lead yourself first, these are great practices for anyone interested in developing themselves as a leader as well.

As he often does, Jon got me thinking:  What are some of the “un-acts” of leadership that can empower us to be the most powerful expression of ourselves?

Here are a few of the “un-acts” that came to mind for me…

Un-hook from Your Expectations.  The degree of frustration you experience in any situation is often a function of the gap between your expectations and reality.  Focus instead on your aspirations – standing for a possibility without being attached to it will allow you to focus on “what can we/I do now” vs. fixating on what should have been or what “they” should have done.

Un-know THE Answer.  Seek certainty rather than knowing.  Certainty gives you and those you lead a sense of confidence in your choices while leaving you with a mind open enough to see when you need to change course.  Knowing can leave you stuck in a cycle of trying to prove you are/were right even when the evidence indicates otherwise.

Un-leash Your Heart.  John C. Maxwell reminds us that “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care”.  It can take great courage to be vulnerable enough to let people know you truly care.  The industrial age business model taught the need to separate head from heart if you want to make good business decisions.  I think that’s one of those things it is time to unlearn, especially if you want to succeed in a relationship economy.

What “un-acts” of leadership do you have to add?



Enter A Comment

Jon Mertz   |   16 October 2012   |   Reply


First, I am so honored that my post instigated your thoughts on “un” leadership activities. Your work has always been an inspiration, so I am grateful to be including in this post.

Second, here is a leadership principle to add: Unwrap. As leaders, we get wrapped up in the ways we have always done things. The past may have been kind to those activities, but the present and future situations may not be. We need to unwrap ourselves from ways we have always done things in order to innovate and improve in our ways.

At times, we may also need to unwrap from some relationships, too. When some people we have relied on for advice and counsel are no longer empowering our growth, we may need to find new advisors and sources for inspiration.

The “un” approach is a solid one to consider in our leadership practices, as you point out.

Thanks again, Susan!


Susan Mazza   |   16 October 2012   |   Reply

Hi Jon – you started with such a strong promise it was great to have an opportunity to build on it!

Love your add re” “unwrapping”. I was trying to come up with an “Un” concept that covered letting go. Perhaps it is some combination of first unwrapping and then unhooking!

Thanks for playing some more with this here!

Andy Phillips   |   16 October 2012   |   Reply

Susan and Jon – this is such a great concept. After reading this I have played around with un-concepts for myself. Un-decide things has been the most profound for me. If we think we are something, then that affects all our capability. Un-decide and the options open up endlessly. In leadership, un-decide our view of people. It opens up new ways to engage and motivate. Interesting thoughts.

Susan Mazza   |   16 October 2012   |   Reply

“Un-decide” our view of people – that’s awesome Andy! Glad this got you thinking in new ways. Let us know if you come up with any more “un-acts” of leadership.

Jon Mertz   |   30 October 2012   |   Reply

Andy, I am glad to hear that! If you do write something, let us know. Using Susan’s post as inspiration, I am encouraging others to write their “un” posts and then let me know. Will share them out on a weekly basis. Thanks! Jon

Jeff Nugent   |   25 October 2012   |   Reply

Thanks Susan and Jon, this approach certainly un-leased my creativity! Here are a few brainstormed possibilities…

Un-define yourself from any description ((I am…”) that is not who you deeply desire to become. However we define ourselves, is unavoidably whom we become. (See Oprah’s Life Course this weekend)

Possibly un-bind yourself from your current challenges. Occasionally the wisest thing to do, is to decide to do something else.

Un-allow yourself to be, in this moment, someone who is in any way inconsistent with who you deeply want to be. Be the person that you actually want to be, in each relationship and situation.

Un-commit yourself from any agreements that you have made, that need to be renegotiated or left behind on your journey.

Un-believe any fundamental beliefs that for any reason no longer seem useful, given what you are learning from the experience of your life and leadership roles.

After careful consideration, if it seems the wisest move, compassionately un-connect yourself from anyone that is a significant hindrance to moving forward in your life.

Un-judge yourself for past decisions that may not have worked out. We all make every decision with the best information available to us, that we can allow ourselves to see and understand at the time. Instead, be compassionate with the past and current you.

So…while I can see how several of these “un’s” could potentially be used to justify an irresponsible departure from things that we have an obligation to finish, I think we also need to allow ourselves the freedom to consider us, others, the organizations we lead, and the movements we want to grow from 360 degree vantage points that will sometimes yield important new perspectives.

All the best…Jeff

Susan Mazza   |   26 October 2012   |   Reply

Wow Jeff!!! So much gold here. Appreciate you allowing your creativity to flow and add value here. Think my favorite is “Unallow…” – that to me is the heart of what it means to take a stand for yourself. Thanks!

Jon Mertz   |   30 October 2012   |   Reply

I agree with Susan. Jeff, you have raised so many good points. I think an important is that we cannot forget — nor should we — decisions or people from our past. Each experience delivers value to us as long as we learn from it and don’t let it hold us back from living our life to its full capability.

There are certain responsibilities in life, and we cannot ignore them. We need to determine the right balance of unpacking certain things so we can load up on new initiatives that take us further in our life path.

A great conversation! If you write a post on this “un” concept, please let me know. I wrote another post on this and am trying to encourage others to write a perspective on it, too (just as Susan did!).

Thanks again.


Geoff Reiner   |   08 November 2012   |   Reply

Hi Susan,

Great post! The act of leadership involves adopting new skills everyday and unlearning old skills as well.

The act of unplugging has been so helpful from both a personal and professional development perspective. I find that time away from all things with a power button allow me to take a step back, reflect, and think more strategically about business.

Then, when I return to all of the alerts, notifications and battery chargers, I can provide a new and fresh perspective as I have found that clarity that you speak of.

Thanks again for your post and I will certainly be checking out your work more regularly!


Susan Mazza   |   08 November 2012   |   Reply

Unlearn and Unplug – both great additions to the list Geoff. I really resonate with the need to unplug. Thanks for stopping by and I look forward to seeing you here again soon!

Link Resource Group   |   10 November 2012   |   Reply

Amazing post, Leadership needs a lot of skills to be learned. I totally agree with Jon Mertz, he has a lot of great points in his comment.

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