Strengthening the Core


“I am not strong because of you but I can be stronger with you.” 

While riding to work on a very crowded train this morning, I witnessed a married couple join the standing-room-only crowd of commuters. Everyone appeared to be engrossed in their own world, although we were conjointly thrown together in a silver bullet headed in the same direction. No one seemed to mind the close quarters as there were no noticeable facial scowls and actually a few brief smiles and common morning interactions.

As we quietly rode from destination to destination, the available passenger space grew even tighter, eventually to a point where closeness to your neighbor allowed you to actually detect their shampoo fragrance.  And even with all of that, we tightly held on to the train’s walls, seats, or above-head handrails as we proceeded on our winding journey of dropping off and picking up morning riders.

Eventually my attention was brought back to this before-mentioned couple, standing in the middle of the train not 4 feet away from me. They smiled at each other, sharing a few seconds of occasional eye contact before each of them looked out of the train’s windows or at other commuters. One of the things I noticed was how the wife wrapped her arm around her husband’s waist instead of holding onto a handrail to stabilize herself. I then noted how her husband braced his stance to support her weight, as we swayed during stops and turns. Now, I know some of you might think, “Awwww, isn’t that sweet? She’s leaning on her husband and he’s supporting her.” Seems kind of nice, huh? Well, before you get caught up in the butterflies and violins, that’s NOT the main thing I saw here. And what I did see isn’t as rosy or as wonderful as you might think.

What I saw was an example of why many organizations and relationships suffer and some fail. What I saw was a missed opportunity on both parts to help themselves and thus, help each other. What I saw was something problematic and not ideal or supportive at all. Curious? Hopefully so…

To go further into this observation, I noticed that there was a stabilization rail directly above the wife being utilized by her husband and available for her to use to maintain her own balance. I also noted that due to her utilizing her husband (a stabilization “resource”) instead of the hand rail (a stronger and the more purposefully designed stabilization source), she was putting unwarranted pressure on him. So, as we traveled he had to continue to readjust to keep them both from falling. Let me put it this way, instead of doing what she could have done to help herself, she was solely relying on him for both of them. Instead of assisting, she was adding more weight and pressure. And to make it personal – instead of you pulling your own weight, you’re expecting someone else to pull theirs and yours too. Get the picture? (I’m sure this is not the warm and fuzzy moment some initially thought I witnessed).

And this scenario is too reminiscent of how many professional and personal relationships operate. The giving and “strength-balancing” aspect is warped. One person is casting more “weight” than what s/he should, putting undue stress and hardship on the other partner. One leader or division is carrying the majority of the solutions and/or progress while others are underperforming. No organism can operate at optimum capacity if each person/component doesn’t effectively do its part. Period. The success of your unit, whether it’s an organization or personal relationship, depends on individual success which is directly dependent upon individual strength. So, her reliance on him is not sweet and his allowing it is not supportive – it’s problematic.

As a leader, one of my greatest joys is when people don’t have to rely on me for what they once did. When the phone calls decrease, when the questions turn into answers, and when they are strengthened to make independent good decisions without my advice. I desire for others to be able to stabilize themselves and stand on their own – it only strengthens the team.  And if I create “dependency” (even subconsciously), I am limiting not only their potential but impeding my own and that of our overall team. Remember, effective leaders develop other leaders but insecure leaders foster dependency.

Developing strong leaders attests to our leadership skills NOT the fact that they need to consistently rely on us. I expect others to grow, so I encourage and embrace the transition to independence so they will learn to trust their own wings. For success, knowing our own strength is invaluable. Think about it. How else would be able to accomplish anything unless we truly did? And that’s what we must inspire in others – a knowledge of their ability to soar. Now that’s leadership. 

Leaders, our team is the core that must be strengthened. Your partner, your business associates, your family, your team. Whether it’s a professional or personal, whether it’s a one-on-one partnership or a larger scale organism, your team is about strength and alliance. And in true collaboration, we must instill this into our teams: “Your strength doesn’t come from me but we can be stronger together.” 

So, let’s learn and teach others to not lean on the resources, yet seek to become stronger individually. And don’t miss the opportunity to encourage your team’s growth and to pour into them. Because it truly takes a stronger “I” to make a stronger “us”. And THAT should be our goal – strengthening the core!


© 2017 Kassandra McGhee

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