Leadership on the Edge - Part 2 | Jackie Crispin Brown
jackie crispin brown

Last week we explored what it looks like to lead authentically, deeply committed and yet not to depletion. Today’s article provides you with guidelines and tools to help you find and practice your own leadership edge.


1) Authenticity – I can’t be on the edge, trying to be someone else. There’s no space for that. Giving myself utterly, requires all of me. It requires me to use my strengths, understand my vulnerabilities and work within these limits to enable me to stretch into my potential. This doesn’t happen if I’m wearing a mask. We each have our own edge and only we can assess if we are giving ourself utterly to it.

Who are you (as a leader)? What is your edge? What are your strengths? What are your weaknesses, your vulnerabilities? Are you wearing a mask?

2) Focus – I can’t give myself utterly to everything. That translates to being too busy to perform at the edge. I need to understand where I belong, doing what? Where can I be at my best, do my best work? These answers are best informed from understanding my purpose, my commitments and my values. This knowledge guides wise choices around where to put my attention, with whom and when.

“You must learn one thing. The world was made to be free in. Give up all the other worlds except the one to which you belong.” DAVID WHYTE

What is your purpose as a leader? What are your values? What is your core commitment in the moment?

3) Self awareness – To sustainably find my edge I need to know myself. What are the limits I work within? Limits include my strengths and weaknesses, my current circumstances, my values, my health, my skills, … Strangely, honest acknowledgment of these limits enables me to extend the boundary, the edge.

There is also a need to be aware of habits, particularly those less helpful ones that get in the way of giving utterly to the desired activity. They may come in a very ‘acceptable’ form yet they still get in the way. Perhaps you have an unexplored belief that says looking after yourself isn’t valid. Perhaps you are driven by unrealistic expectations that you can never achieve, so pursuing your edge is an unknown space. Perhaps you need to challenge and let go of a negative story you tell yourself.

Knowing and managing habits is an enabler to leading at your best regularly. What are your habits? Those that are helpful and those that may get in the way of performing at your edge? What are the limits you have to work within?

4) Ownership – I do this firstly for me. I hope the outcome is of benefit to others but that is for them to decide. I can only give myself utterly, for me. It asks so much of me, I have to want it, for my own joy and satisfaction in knowing I have given my all – who else will know? If I do it for another, I will need their affirmation. I will be afraid I will disappoint. The other person may not see all the value in me giving myself utterly. No I do this for myself.

Can you own your edge? Can you let go of the desire for others to see your edge, to affirm your performance? Are you willing to give yourself utterly, because it’s important to you?

5) Courage – The edge of giving myself utterly is a place of vulnerability. Facing the questions of self doubt and being willing to come to the edge is an act of courage. Trusting myself, backing myself requires courage. To perform at my edge, I need to stay with the discomfort of the edge. To notice my fears and not avoid them but develop the ability to stay present.

To grow your capacity for courage and performing at your edge, consider these questions. Do a lot of the first, some of the second and a little of the third. Practise staying a little longer with the discomfort.

Notice what can I do, in what situations and feel nothing negative?

Notice what can I do in what situation, even though I feel a little fearful?

Notice what can’t I do, in what situations, because the fear/discomfort is too intense?

6) Resourced – Giving myself utterly cannot come from a place of depletion, nor should it result in one. You must be resourced: mentally, emotionally, spiritually and physically. (Well slept, well fed, healthy, knowing and honoring what is important and regulating thoughts and emotions) I also include have the right people around you, allowing others to contribute to the outcome, accepting help from others and ensuring you are setting yourself up for success.

What resources do you have ready access to? What resources do you need to give yourself utterly to leadership?

7) Discipline, self regulation – Being in this space requires discipline. To stay present and not be distracted. To stay on the edge of limits rather than push too far to become over whelmed or frightened, to deplete self. To remain aware, to look after self, and to be willing to regulate feelings and thoughts to keep coming back to the edge requires the development of strong self regulation.

How do you hold yourself to account to lead at your edge? What do you have in place to help you explore your potential while not going beyond the edge to depletion?

A mindfulness practice supports self regulation and focus.

8) Practice – there are two steps in practising. The first practice is the action itself – the craft. Practising all the elements of my chosen activity. For a racer this is the start, the finish, turns, straights, braking, accelerating, overtaking and more. For a leader, taking the opportunity to have those challenging conversations, to create and share vision, to give feedback, to stretch, to coach, to lead self, to share self – there is much we can practise. The second practice is that of bringing myself to the edge, to know this place and to become good at giving myself utterly. To practise this again and again gives us real knowledge of where the edge is and all that it takes to sustain performing here.

Practise, observation, reflection and adaption help you hone your craft, and learn more about yourself, and are core to be able to give yourself fully. Imagine the dancer, actor, sportsperson, writer, racer all turning up to the event without the hour and hours of intentional practice and learning as a result!

What is the craft you are practising? What would it mean to bring yourself to the edge? How rigorous is your practice? What reflective practices support you in your learning?

9) Lightness – I asked a composer how she was able to give herself utterly, without being consumed by her piece of music. Her response was playfulness. While she takes her work seriously, she tries not to take herself or those around her too seriously. She will be playful with colleagues and that lightness translates into experimentation, pushing her boundaries and engaging more easily in the work.

Some of the challenges we face as leaders can feel very serious. How do we not take ourselves so seriously in the moment? How do we not tell ourselves it’s”life or death” to get this right? If we can bring in the lightness, it reduces the stress we and those around us experience.

What does lightness mean for you in your leadership?

When I give myself utterly I feel alive, excited, compelled, invigorated – even complete. At the same time I am giving myself utterly I am being refueled. Performing at my edge is a self honoring act. An acknowledgement that I am enough.
The more I perform at the edge I move my edge out and am able to spend more time at this edge, just like an athlete interval training. Enjoying the obvious deep, deep satisfaction I feel in experiencing my edge, I also notice I increase my courage. I can tolerate more discomfort without withdrawing. I develop mastery and build solid, real, self confidence. I know myself better. I learn how to help others find their edge and explore their potential.

What is your experience of ‘giving yourself utterly’? Experiment. How can you extend your edge? What does it feel like? What steps can you take to ‘lean that little bit further’, trust yourself more, perform at the edge?

Contact me to learn to lead more on your edge.

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