Possessions of the Soul

Four things leaders have that emotions will never take away

The possessions of your soul, beat emotions that you feel, every time.

Leading by and through emotions is the hallmark of immature leadership. Mature leadership has a depth and consideration to it that understands whatever is happening ‘right now’ as an event, is much more of a still shot in the context of the movie that is playing out before you. You have multiple opportunities throughout the day to experience something and decide how you respond. You can lead with immature emotion or you can lead with mature consistency and wisdom, but not both.

We are made up of the following three parts.

  • Mind – The thinking process.
  • Body – The doing expression.
  • Soul/Spirit – The being essence.

Our emotions are part of life, this piece is not to suggest they are bad. However, emotions must be resourceful, and one way we make them useful, helpful and resourceful is to ensure you are in command of a more deeper part of who you are, a more mature, balanced, aligned part of you. We can be triggered by many different things, here are ten that come to mind:

  • Your boss hasn’t responded to your email. So you fill in the gaps.
  • You boss has responded to your email. And you didn’t like it.
  • You haven’t had ‘that’ conversation with an employee yet. It’s making you anxious.
  • The year-end was lower than expected and you have some work to do on return.
  • Your 360 Review had some feedback that hit harder than expected.
  • You are rehearsing an unresolved conflict with a colleague. And winning all your solo arguments.
  • You default to what wasn’t right with an experience you just had. Criticism comes easy.
  • As you look forward you’re filled with less expectation and more anxiety. And it shows in your handling of others.
  • People don’t know how you’re going to be any particular day. You are inconsistent.
  • Emotional resilience and perseverance are hard to find for you right now.

Emotions are normal, emotions are changeable, manageable and teachable.

Possessions of the soul are deeply owned, personally won and fiercely guarded. Lose them and you lose the battle of the emotions faster than you can realise. Keep them, nurture them, shape them, strengthen them and they will serve you as a foundation of rock in the wildest storm.

As you lean into leadership there are four possessions of the soul that you must identify, cultivate and protect. They will serve you and help you master your circumstances, emotions, and environment. They function as independent possessions but are best understood as an interdependent matrix leaning into one another, giving and receiving from one another.

Joy – The ability to choose optimism

Happy is the emotion. Joy is the possession. The wild thing is you can be sad yet joyful. Farewelling my nearly 95-year old Nan was like that. What a lady! A life well lived, in service, in dignity, with a generation of children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren following after her we were able to feel sad that she was gone yet joyful that she lived.

Joy acknowledges the loss, the grief, the shame, the hurt, the regret and finds the launch pad of optimism that sits beneath the emotion. Sadness can’t rob you of joy. Joy, however, can reframe sadness.

What would joy do?

Peace – The ability to experience calm.

Gandhi is famously quoted as saying “Peace isn’t the absence of conflict but the ability to cope with it.” In a world where the pace of change and the level of disruption seems to be increasing in size and intensity, peace and contentment are possessions of the soul that seems to elude far too many of us. Peace isn’t that everything is perfect, peace is that sense that in the midst of the imperfection everything will be ok.

Leading change, managing conflict, building a team, recovering from failure, leveraging momentum, saying sorry, being a parent, going the distance as a partner. All of that guarantees volatility of some kind which has the potential to remove all semblance of peace from your world. Unless. Unless you have something deeper in your soul that can transcend your circumstances, partner with Joy and deliver a perspective on your environment that your experiences cannot master.

What would peace do?

Hope – The ability to see possibility

One of the most important things you can have is a vision for your future that provides passion. When you have no clear picture of the future to work towards you are less anchored and less clear on what you must say yes to and even more importantly what you must say no to. A compelling personal vision is the basis of hope for your life. Hope, as the ancients define it, is ‘an anchor for your soul.’

The Stockdale Paradox is perhaps one the clearest ways to understand how reality and optimism embrace. The prisoners of war that made were not the perennial ‘we will be out by Christmas optimists’ according to Admiral James Stockade. The POW’s that made it acknowledged the hell they were presently in but chose to contemplate the possibility of a better future, that despite being out of their control was still an option. That hope, that anchor, that fuel for the soul, maintained the persistence required to withstand the atrocities they were experiencing.

Hope is something you have IN you when it looks like everything has been taken FROM you.

What would hope do?

Love – The ability to embrace

Love in its truest form is the ability to stare hate in the face and love anyway. It’s the ability to see a person not as their behaviour alone but as a product on nature, nurture, and choice. It’s the acceptance that all is not the way I want it to be but I can choose how I am with that truth. It’s facing another person’s truth but not forming them to accept mine. Love doesn’t presuppose agreement, in fact, love predicts disagreement and provides the foundation for handling it.

The longer I lead the more I see that the priority of love is core to navigating a world where our perspectives, values, and behaviours are so different from one another. Love doesn’t mean we agree, it does mean we embrace. Embrace the difference, the person, the relationship the learning opportunity. Love isn’t easy but it’s fundamental to purpose, progress, and potential.

What would love do?

Joy, peace, hope, love. The currency of deep, mature, long-lasting leadership. Challenged in the face of storms but not removed. Nurtured by learning, strengthened by use. When you live out these things in increasing measure they will outlive you.


This is for leaders. I am for leaders.


Rohan Dredge

I help technical experts become people leaders.™ For more than two decades I have taught leaders the essential skills to help them make the leap from someone who is excellent at their job to someone who is outstanding at leading people. I’m a People Architect who helps design and build people to be proud of.

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