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Service and Flexibility: A Lesson in Leadership

Last week was a week of tests. In every area of my life, I was put through the fire. I knew each situation was an opportunity for growth, but in some instances, I definitely could have done better.

One of the biggest areas for growth came when I was asked to help get my cousin ready for prom. Specifically, I was needed to style her twists and do her makeup. Knowing how involved my aunt is, I communicated my hair vision in advance, and we agreed that she would let me do my thing as long as we brought her in for editing ability before sending my little cousin downstairs. Sounds fair, right? That’s not what happened.

Every step of the way, my aunt was popping in, commenting, and demanding things be redone, just so she could complain about how long things were taking. Our agreement of her coming in at the end went out the window. She finally pulled the last straw when she wiped off all the makeup I spent thirty minutes matching and applying. It was clear we had different visions and she really needed to do everything herself. I acquiesced, left the room and waited downstairs with the other guests. Livid was an understatement.

In the moment, I was frustrated with my aunt’s distrust of my decision-making, her lack of communication around her expectations, and her inability to let go. I thought I did everything necessary up front to explain what I had in mind, and I felt that if she had done the same, we could have reached an understanding before I wasted my time. In further reflection though, there was a lesson for me to learn about service and flexibility.

Regardless of my aunt’s perceived over-protectiveness, I still needed to adjust my approach to serving. Having my own struggles with control, I came into the situation with my vision for my cousin. I never stopped to ask my aunt what she wanted and how I could help her. That’s what service is, catering to the needs of others, not pushing your agenda or opinions forward. If all I can control is myself, I need to own that I dropped the ball by prioritizing my vision over my aunt’s.

In addition to learning how to serve, I also needed to reflect on my ability to read a moment and be flexible. My aunt and I made an agreement in advance, and instead of realizing that she was unable to uphold that agreement, I became frustrated with her for breaking it. As a recovering perfectionist, I must admit that it’s difficult for me to accept a change of course, especially when it’s something I don’t agree with, but this wasn’t my moment. It was an opportunity to show humility and create unforgettable memories with my family. I blew that one.

Every successful person I know talks about the importance of service. When we ground ourselves in serving people, we put our ego aside to make necessary adjustments. It's okay if you haven't been getting this right. Clearly, I'm still growing in these areas. Progress is being a better person today, than you were the day before. We may have missed a few moments in the past, but we'll be ready for the next one.

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